After years of treating mental health as a taboo subject, mental health issues are finally being given the attention they deserve and are being discussed openly and predominantly on the media.  A great deal is said about the life challenges faced by youths. We also speak about the mental health of those who are entering pensionable age. But mental health problems do not disappear once a person becomes elderly – they carry on. 

The struggle against solitude is the predominant factor that should be addressed. Although the Government dedicates part of its Budget to the welfare of the elderly, this is not sufficient. Solitude is sometimes taken to be the main problem in the treatment of mental health issues in the elderly.  Many of the symptoms of mental health issues would have been diagnosed years before. Some people have struggled with mental health issues all their lives. Social isolation can contribute to their problems but this is not the whole story. 

Other factors are important, for instance physical conditions and lack of access to services which seems to be a recurring problem. Some may think that the services appear to be diminishing because of rising mental health issues, but this perception could also be due to how the services are reaching the people concerned. 

Health authorities, speaking with the intention of helping family doctors identify mental health problems in the elderly, have remarked that professionals sometimes attribute the symptoms of mental health problems to age. The elderly are six times more likely to be given a form of treatment by their doctors than adults. However, research shows that there is a higher incidence of self-harming among the elderly and more valid reasons why such persons are given medical care. On a basic level, when we recognise that mental health issues do not suddenly disappear when one grows old, we would be making great strides. 

If we were truly dedicated to fighting stigma in our society, and to increasing services to better the lives of people with mental health issues, we need to do more. Simply speaking about mental health issues is not enough. We need to think about what we are saying and who we are addressing.