This guest post is from Jason Lewis. Jason Lewis is a personal trainer who became the primary caretaker for his mother after surgery. You can read more about him at strongwell.org.
A Guide to Mental Health for Seniors
In a recent article published by Lohud, senior centers insisted that stigmas associated with psychological counseling are simply untrue. The centers argued that discussing depression, addiction or suicidal thoughts can not only lead to helpful treatment, but the simple act of sharing can help decrease the risk of mental illness.
This article hit the nail on the head. It’s important for senior citizens to know, and accept, that mental health is a vital part of aging. As we age, we become more susceptible to a variety of mental illnesses. In order to prevent your mental health from declining, consider following these six tips:
- See a therapist regularly.
Just as the article from Lohud argues, senior citizens should consider seeing a therapist on a regular basis. Aging is a scary (and exciting) process, and should be discussed with someone who can offer helpful advice. Sharing your feelings and emotions with a professional can be life-changing, lowering the risk of developing a mental illness and encouraging growth. Don’t hide your feelings because you think no one else has them. Instead, embrace them. You’ll quickly find you aren’t alone.
- Ask questions about your mental health.
The more you know about your mental health, the more risks you can prevent. The National Institute of Mental Health (NIH) offers useful information about warning signs and resources that can help you along the way. Common red flags include increased stress, suicidal thoughts or tendencies, engaging in high-risk activities, obsessive behavior, difficulty concentrating, increased aggressiveness, ongoing headaches, or changes in mood. If you notice any of these warning signs, contact a counselor or physician and schedule an appointment as soon as possible.
- Keep a diary or journal.
Maintaining your mental illness doesn’t always have to be done in the open. It can also be done behind closed doors, as you examine your own state of mind. Consider writing in a journal. You can write the events of your day. You can also write songs, poetry, or quotes. Some seniors take the opportunity to write a memoir about their life. Whatever helps you keep track of your ongoing emotions, do it on a daily basis.
- Think positive thoughts.
Unfortunately, depression is common among senior citizens. According to Mental Health America, nearly a quarter of those who experience a stroke each year will experience clinical depression. More than two million Americans over the age of sixty-five suffer from some form of depression. It doesn’t help that more than fifty percent of older patients have higher healthcare costs than seniors who don’t face depression.
Despite all of these facts, it’s important to continue thinking positive thoughts. If you experience depressive episodes, get in contact with a counselor. He or she will be able to tell you whether or not you are experiencing ongoing depression – and how to get help.
- Start a new hobby.
If you don’t enjoy writing, fight against mental illness by starting a new hobby and being social with the people around you. Join an aerobics or artwork class, engage in nature hikes, or go to classes at your local library. Do anything that keeps you engaged, focused, and happy.
- Be aware of the risks.
Understand the risks associated with refusing to focus on mental health. Physical and mental health can significantly decrease your risk of developing a mental illness. For more information about mental and emotional health in seniors, visit the Senior Resource Alliance.
Focusing on your mental health will improve your overall outlook on life. Not only will you face a lower risk of mental illness, but you’ll feel better along the way.
Author: Jason Lewis