Senior Lifestyles

Resources for treating and maintaining mental health abound

Depression, anxiety and other mental illnesses often carry a deeply rooted stigma, forcing people with mental health challenges to suffer in silence.

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

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that depression is a true and treatable medical condition, not a normal part of aging. However, older adults are at an increased risk of 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 may 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 approximately 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 functions become limited.

According to CDC officials, “Older adults are often misdiagnosed and undertreated. Health-care 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.”

Seeking help

Following are resources for finding help in a crisis.

• Call 911.

• Visit a nearby emergency department or your health-care provider’s office.

• Call the toll-free, 24-hour National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at (800) 273- 8255 to talk with a trained counselor.

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

Tips for maintaining mental health

A blog titled “13 Mental Health Tips To Keep You Sane in Golden Years” at provides a number of tips for maintaining mental health, including:

• Set goals or resolutions that focus on improving your mental health.

• Spend time with others – call a friend or relative to join you for errands or other activities.

• Build your resilience and find healthy ways to cope with life’s challenges.

• Exercise your brain.

• Try new things.

• Help others by volunteering.

• Change your diet to include foods rich in omega-3 and omega-6 – found in nuts, seeds and fatty fish.

• Write. Take five minutes a day to write down your thoughts, feelings or ideas.

Carol Marak is an aging advocate, columnist and editor at To subscribe to her newsletter, email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. and write “sign me up” in the subject line.

Schools »

Read More

Sports »

Read More

People »

Read More

Special Sections »

Special Sections
Read More

Photos of Los Altos

Browse and buy photos