For Elderly, Relief for Emotional Ills Can Be Elusive New York Times (03/21/01) Vol. 105, No. 11 p.6; Morris, Lois B.
Mental health professionals are frustrated with the high
number of elderly people who shrug mental illness off as symptoms of
aging and do not seek professional help. Meanwhile, knowledge about the
diagnosis and treatment of mental disorders among this population is
growing. Only half of older people who report their symptoms get
treatment, and only 3 percent are treated by a mental health
professional. Heart disease, the most common cause of death among this
age group, is linked to mental symptoms in several ways. Depression can
be a side effect of many medications. However, this dynamic is expected
to change in the near future as baby boomers reach retirement age. This
group entered psychotherapy in record numbers and has suffered from
depression and from drug and alcohol abuse at historically high rates,
so a psychiatric diagnosis is not likely to be stigmatizing for them.