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Aging Americans struggle to get the mental health resources they need

Dr. Henderson: Older adults and mental health

INDIANAPOLIS (WISH) — Aging Americans aren’t getting the mental health help they need, according to the National Council on Aging.

In fact, health professionals say less than half of older people with mental health disorders receive adequate care.

The COVID-19 Pandemic highlighted mental health issues affecting young people, but aging Americans are also still facing significant challenges.

Dr. Danielle Henderson is a clinical psychologist at Indiana University. Henderson says several factors limit a person’s access to adequate mental health services.

According to Henderson, there are several obstacles preventing aging Americans from accessing mental health care, including isolation, insurance coverage issues, and a shortage of trained professionals.

Many older people may be hesitant to seek help due to the stigma surrounding aging, while others are reluctant to offer assistance.

It is important to acknowledge that there are harmful stereotypes about aging that can negatively impact the quality of care provided to older adults. One misconception is that depression and anxiety are a natural part of the aging process, when in fact they are not.

There is also a potentially harmful stigma surrounding mental health in older generations, with many believing that seeking help shows weakness. Health professionals say it is crucial to dispel these misconceptions in order to provide the best care for older adults.

Saturday on News 8 Weekend Daybreak, Dr. Henderson spoke about the “Stealth Mental Health” approach. She says it’s been successfully implemented in senior centers in New York City. This model involves conducting mental health discussions without explicitly labeling them as such.

For example, Dr. Henderson says workshops on journaling and gratitude led to more fruitful conversations that encourage self-reflection. As a result, older people felt comfortable discussing a range of topics, including physical health, depression, and other mental health issues.

This works by providing comfortable ways to have difficult conversations.

Watch the full interview above to learn more.

Mental health resources