Age UK and NHS England have joined forces to encourage older people to lose the “stiff upper lip” and seek help for mental health conditions.
The campaign, launched this week, follows new research carried out by Age UK that shows that more than one in six people in the UK aged 65 or over have experienced depression and anxiety.
Of these, more than half did not seek help as they thought “they should just get on with it” and nearly a quarter relied on support from friends or family.
Around one in ten (13%) of people surveyed by Age UK said they would put their mental health before their physical health, with ingrained attitudes towards mental health a possible factor in preventing older people from seeking help for emotional problems.
The campaign aims to boost the number of older people getting the help they need by writing to GPs to urge them to look out for the symptoms of mental health problems in older people, along with making them aware of the NHS support services available.
Alistair Burns, national clinical director for Dementia and Older People’s Mental Health at NHS England and NHS Improvement said: “Older people sometimes feel they have to have a ‘stiff upper lip’ towards health, but we all have our own battles to fight and seeking help is a sign of strength, not weakness, so anyone out there who is feeling down and needs help, can and should get it from the NHS.
“We should remember that loneliness and isolation can be linked to physical health problems, so getting support through a talking therapist is good for mind and body.
“Depression shouldn’t be seen as a normal part of ageing and we need to challenge the assumption that older people should just put up with it, as evidence shows it can be treated.”
Age UK director Caroline Abrahams said: “In recent years there’s been nothing short of a cultural revolution in our willingness to be open about mental ill health, which is an essential pre-condition to people getting help, but it’s one that may well have left many older people behind. They grew up in an era when there was a real stigma associated with mental illness, so for many, these attitudes are deeply engrained and still driving their behaviour today.”