Sunshine Coast first program aims to improve the mental health of older people

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Periods of big change in later life, from retiring to relocation or physical illnesses, can create new stresses that lead to mental health problems or depression. A new program at The Sunshine Coast Private Hospital aims to help people dealing with a mental health issue as they age.

The Older Persons’ Program, designed to meet the needs of over 65 years old experiencing a mental health issue, will be delivered through the Cooinda Mental Health Service.

Dr Jennifer Moss, a psychiatrist at The Sunshine Coast Private Hospital who specialises in older persons’ psychiatry, said the program will help participants gain a deeper understanding of the challenges associated with late adulthood, learn specific strategies to help manage these challenges, and help build a support network.

“Mental health problems as you age are quite common and often under-estimated so hopefully in talking about this program, it will raise awareness of this issue and result in more people seeking assistance,” Dr Moss said.

“Generally speaking, mental health problems are under-identified by healthcare professionals and older people themselves.

“I encourage any older person who is struggling to talk to their General Practitioner and don’t just put what they are feeling down to being old, because depression and anxiety doesn’t just happen because you are ageing. The good news is that the outcomes are actually great for older people who seek help, if they have depression it is very treatable,” she said.

Australia is in the midst of an unprecedented increase in the population aged 65 years and older. The fastest rate of growth is in people over 80 years old. Data indicates the steepest period of growth in the number and proportion of people aged over 65 years old will take place during the next 10 years.

Dr Moss’ top tips to stay mentally healthy as you age are:

  1. Stay socially connected
  2. Stay physically active
  3. Pay attention to lifestyle choices during middle age and establish good patterns of healthy living
  4. Get regular check ups to maintain and monitor both physical and mental health

The Sunshine Coast Private Hospital’s General Manager, Wallis Westbrook, said the hospital’s Cooinda Mental Health Service provides the most comprehensive range of private mental health services on the Sunshine Coast.

“I’m so proud of our mental health service and all the local people it has been able to help over the years – from new mums to veterans, the young and the old,” he said.

 

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