According to the data collected and published by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), there are currently more than 11 million senior citizens who are struggling with a mental illness in the United States, some of whom are receiving EEOICPA and RECA benefits.
Though it is very challenging to get precise figures — mental illnesses are chronically underreported and undertreated — the evidence suggests that mental health issues affect the elderly at a somewhat higher rate than they do the general population.
In and of itself, that is a serious problem. Worse though is the fact that elderly people with mental health disorders are less likely to get treatment than are younger people. Higher rates of mental illness combined with lower access to professional medical care means that mental health issues pose a serious threat to older adults.
The Stigma is High and Treatment May Be Difficult to Access
When it comes to mental illnesses, one of the biggest problems facing the elderly is that there is an enormous amount of stigma attached to all types of emotional and mental issues. To be sure, mental health problems are still stigmatized for all age groups. Virtually everyone with a mental health issue has faced some type of familial or societal pressure or come in contact with someone who simply does not understand their condition.
However, for the elderly, that stigma is even more difficult to address, the reason being that far too many people consider anxiety, depression, and other mental health issues to simply be a “part of the aging process”. This is completely false. Depression, anxiety, and other mental issues are not a normal part of aging. They are medical issues that require attention and assistance.
Sadly, many senior citizens are dealing with mental health issues that are being written off, ignored, or otherwise explained away. As a result, these people may not be able to get access to professional medical care until it is too late. This is a tragedy; early intervention is one of the keys to successful mental health treatment. The sooner you take action to help your elderly loved one get access to mental health treatment, the better off they will be.
Mental Illnesses Often Create and Compound Other Problems
Mental illnesses frequently have physical effects, particularly if they are left undiagnosed, untreated, and allowed to persist. The National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) notes that many mental health issues are associated with serious physical conditions such as heart disease, diabetes, and even cancer.
Additionally, elderly people who are dealing with serious mental health issues often have trouble living a healthy life. They may avoid taking their medication, they may decide to stop getting physical activity, and they become more withdrawn and more socially isolated. Taken together, this creates a vicious cycle whereby an untreated mental health condition leads to a person engaging in the very behaviors that will actually make their mental illness even worse. Mental illness is a threat to the elderly and early intervention is a must.