Care Pathways

13.01.20

NHS partners with Age UK to support mental health in older people

A new partnership between NHS England and the charity Age UK, is encouraging the older generations to lose the “stiff upper lip” attitude when it comes to their mental health.

The campaign, announced today (Jan 13), is calling on older people to access treatment for mental health conditions amid new analysis showing the majority do not.

New data reveals that more than six in ten over-65s in the UK have experienced depression and anxiety, and more than half of these did not seek help but instead thought ‘they should just get on with it.’

World-leading programme, Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT), delivered NHS talking therapies for common mental illnesses. The therapies have proven to be successful, with high recovery rates and more than nine in ten people receiving care in good time.

According to a recent Age UK survey, only one in ten (13%) would put their mental health before their physical health, with an ingrained stigma towards mental health, a possible factor in opting not to seek help for emotional problems.

The campaign will work to boost the number of older people receiving this type of help, by writing to GPs to encourage them to look out for symptoms of mental ill health among the older generations and make them aware of 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.”

Part of the NHS Long Term Plan is to expand access to talking therapies for hundreds of thousands more people and help local areas ensure that their services meet the needs of older carers and people living with dementia and frailty, including those in care homes.

Caroline Abrahams, Age UK director 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.”

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