The recent Inquiry into Mental Health appears to consider mental health in relation to economic participation, productivity and economic growth. However, older people, long retired and economically unproductive (except they may volunteer), may experience poor mental health for various reasons such as downsizing in a different suburb or moving to community living in a retirement village with rules for a new way of living. I am not a psychologist or mental health social worker but a counsellor who uses counselling skills to support older people at home.
Over the past few months, I have supported an 80+ woman who has gambling addictions as well as come to acceptance of disconnection from a much loved son. A 60+ woman is caring for her 65+ husband as well as a 26 yo son with gambling and drug addictions. Another 60+ woman struggles with MS and acceptance in her social world. Why did they not see their GP for a mental health plan? Among other reasons were the cost of psychological services and the anonymity of support.
I recognised the need for counselling some years ago, due to a long and varied experiences in aged care. Counsellors are not respected nor validated by the health and aged care system. Like the stepped approach to mental health, we need to include a range of mental health professionals. Counsellors can support people with mild mental health issues and be part of the early intervention phase. Ignoring counsellors in aged care means that older people have less options. Counsellors should be allowed to support older people in any aged care space (RACFs, HCP, CHSP) and non-care space so that people can remain engaged and assisted to deal with their issues and every day concerns. Evidence suggest that older people are at higher risk of suicide. All the more reason for counsellors to be involved!