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Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses carry deeply rooted stigma forcing people with a mental health challenge to suffer in silence. Stigma: a sensation that something is shameful.

A 2014 study by the NIH (National Institute of Health) found significant differences between the stigma about seeking help for mental conditions felt by those in isolated rural areas compared to urban dwellers. Older rural residents with mental illness associate seeking help with a sign of weakness or an inability to be self-reliant.

The Centers for Disease Control says depression is a true and treatable medical condition, not a normal part of aging. However older adults are at an increased risk for experiencing depression. If you are concerned about a loved one, offer to go with him or her to see a health care provider to be diagnosed and treated. Depression is not just having “the blues” or the emotions we feel when grieving the loss of a loved one. It is a true medical condition that is treatable, like diabetes or hypertension.

Depression is different for seniors because about 80 percent of older adults have at least one chronic health condition, and 50 percent have two or more. Depression is more common in people who also have other illnesses (such as heart disease or cancer) or whose function becomes limited.

CDC says, “Older adults are often misdiagnosed and undertreated. Healthcare providers may mistake an older adult’s symptoms of depression as just a natural reaction to illness or the life changes that may occur, and therefore not see the depression as something to be treated. Older adults themselves often share this belief and do not seek help because they don’t understand that they could feel better with appropriate treatment.”

How to find help if in a crisis:

—Call 911

—Visit a nearby emergency department or your health care provider’s office

—Call the toll-free, 24-hour hotline of the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255); TTY: 1-800-799-4TTY (4889) to talk to a trained counselor

Resources (13 Mental Health Tips To Keep You Sane in Golden Years)

—Medicare provides a free yearly depression screening and preventive wellness visit for Medicare Part B beneficiaries.

—Set goals or resolutions that focus on improving your mental health. Take a moment to think about your mental health goals and what you can do throughout the year.

—Call on a friend or relative to join you as you run errands or complete routine, everyday activities. Doing things together is a great way to raise your spirits and engage those around you in your life.

—It’s important to build your resilience and find healthy ways to cope with challenges.

—Read all 13 tips

By Carol Marak

Aging Matters

Carol Marak, aging advocate, She’s earned a Certificate in the Fundamentals of Gerontology from UC Davis, School of Gerontology.

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