Seniors’ mental health

CARP welcomes the creation of the Commission on Mental Health under the leadership of former Senator Michael Kirby following his comprehensive national study and report on the issue.

Canada is the only G8 country without a national strategy for mental health and so the federal government’s response to organization like CARP that such a strategy be developed is long over due.

The following speech to the Senate’s Special Committee on Aging by Faith Maleck, Executive Director of the of the Canadian Coalition of Seniors’ Mental Health, raised a number of very significant issues.

(The National Coalition is made up of approximately 850 individuals and 85 organizations across Canada, including CARP. The mission of the CCSMH is to promote the mental health of seniors’ by connecting people, ideas and resources and our goals are to:

1. Ensure that Seniors’ Mental Health is recognized as a key Canadian health and wellness issue

2. To facilitate initiatives related to enhancing and promoting seniors’ mental health resources

3. To ensure growth and sustainability of the CCSMH

The CCSMH has a volunteer Steering Committee made up of 13 National organizations, including CARP.)

Seniors’ Mental Health: What is it?

The most important message that I can formulate today is that seniors suffer from a wide array of mental illnesses. Typically, when one thinks of health and aging, they may consider physical illness, cancers, arthritis, stroke, or heart disease. Yet in addition to these common physical illnesses, seniors also experience mental illnesses including Mood, Anxiety and Psychotic Disorders and in addition, the emotional, behavioural and cognitive complications of a variety of brain diseases such as Alzheimer’s disease, Stroke and Parkinson’s disease. It is also important to recognize that while many individuals experience mental illness as they age, others have lived with mental illness their entire lives.

According to the Mood Disorders Society of Canada, the chances of having a mental illness in your lifetime are one in five.1 While, mental illness is not a normal consequence of aging, the information and data specific to seniors is alarming. For example: • Depression is the most common mental health problem for older adults with reported rates of 21per cent

• The group with the highest rate of hospitalization for anxiety disorders is individuals over aged 65 • Among older persons undergoing general surgery, the reported frequency of post operative delirium is 10 -15 per cent. For Cardiothoracic surgery this number goes up to 25-35% and for repair of a hip fracture to 40-50 per cent

• Suicide is another area of serious concern as the incidence of suicide in Canada is highest among men 80 years of age and older..5

As illustrated by these numbers. Seniors’ mental health is a serious issue that can no longer be ignored.

Raising Awareness of Seniors’ Mental Health Issues

Mental Health Commission of Canada: The Coalition is thrilled with the recent announcement of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. At the annual CIHR Institute of Neurosciences, Mental Health and Addictions (INMHA) meeting last week, the Honourable Michael Kirby shared in his presentation that seniors would be a target group for the Commission.