According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the world’s population of people over the age of 60 will double by the year 2050, comprising close to a quarter of the global population, about two billion people. And with more than 20% of people over 60 dealing with mental or neurological disorders (which also account for nearly 7% of all disabilities in people over 60), mental health is a crucial part of maintaining health in our later years.
Mental health problems for all ages often go undiagnosed by healthcare professionals and the people experiencing them alike. They are frequently stigmatized by society and even ourselves — we’re afraid of what people might think, of becoming a burden to our families, and of losing ourselves and our independence. The good news is there’s a world of resources out there that can help you keep your mental health and wellbeing in tip-top shape. Websites like Eldercare Locator can help you find a variety of useful services and information, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg. To that end, here are four other useful resources to help.
The More You Know
The old cliché goes: Knowledge is power. Well, the gathering of knowledge and information is usually the solid foundation of any act or endeavor, and that includes mental health. Gathering information can help you make informed decisions in the event of mental health issues, it can help you keep an eye out for indicators that can help you catch developments early, and that’s always a good thing when it comes to anything that has to do with wellbeing – whether that be mental, physical, or emotional.
A great place to start is mentalhealth.gov. It’s a one-stop-shop for the fundamentals on mental health and mental health disorders, from anxiety to post-traumatic stress disorder to substance use disorders. This website from the U.S. Department of Health & Human Services covers the basics and then some.
A useful feature is the website’s “Myths and Facts” section, which can help dispel many of our unfounded beliefs about mental health. It also has resources on how to start conversations from multiple perspectives, whether you are dealing with mental health difficulties yourself or helping a loved one. The website includes a list of ways to get further help, if necessary, as well as who to call in cases of various emergencies.
Tips On How To Reduce Stress
There’s no avoiding stress. It can hit us at home, work, in social situations, or when we’re alone. Maybe it’s for a speech you’re giving, maybe it’s travel, stress can come in many forms and be caused by many factors. It’s a natural part of life and shouldn’t be considered an inherently bad thing.
Stress can be your body’s way of alerting you to danger or preparing yourself for a task. We all know that too much stress can add unhealthy levels of strain on not just our mental health, but our bodies as well. It can exacerbate existing conditions or create new ones, which can cause a spiraling effect. Sustained stress can have a negative lasting impact, so it’s important to take active steps to combat stress. Learning how to cope with stress is an important skill for people of all ages, and it’s especially important for those of us over 60, as the years of dealing with stress compound.
This helpful resource from the American Psychological Association (APA) offers useful information about stress, as well as some helpful hints on how to cope with stress. It’s a great starting point for anyone looking to address their stress levels, regardless of the cause. There’s also a link to the APA help center for further resources, should you need any (including another link that can help you find a psychologist in your area, if you need more help). Stress is a primal response that we all experience and is nothing to feel embarrassed or ashamed about, so don’t be afraid to ask for help.
Prevention is the Best Medicine
Everyone knows that a healthy diet and regular exercise does wonders for your body in preventing health issues and maintaining wellbeing. According to this article in the Guardian, prevention could be the key to “treating” mental health disorders.
Mental health is still poorly understood, relative to physical health. But more and more health professionals believe taking steps early is the key – the same way you shouldn’t wait until you have a heart attack to deal with a cardiac condition, it’s best to catch mental health disorders as early as possible. This resource from Medicare.gov has a list of preventive screening services that can help maintain your mental health, including many resources for physical health screenings as well (they’re inextricably linked, after all).
Let Technology Be Your Friend
No doubt, technology can be a bit intimidating at times. It seems like the technology we use becomes obsolete the second we get acclimated to using it. That doesn’t mean, however, that you should avoid it. Over the last ten years, the percentage of people over the age of 65 using smartphones has jumped from 13% to 61%, and that trend will likely continue upwards. Smartphone usage offers access to a whole host of resources for older adults to maintain mental health.
Applications that you can download on your phone, like Calm, can help you tackle struggles with anxiety, stress, insomnia, depression, and more. It can be a useful tool in creating a practice of self-care that will help reduce the impact of mental health disorders and improve your overall wellbeing. It has lessons on mindfulness, meditation tips, and even relaxing music and soundscapes to help you with your practices. There are several apps like this that are designed to address a variety of issues — games customized to enhance your mood, face-to-face doctor visits, therapy — the resources are plentiful and helpful. Search to find the ones that work best for you.
In conclusion, just hearing the term “mental health” can be frightening and anxiety inducing, but there are tons of resources out there to help guide you through the best ways to maintain your mental health. We all have different needs, do your research, and find the best tools for you. Most importantly, ask for help when you need it. And if none of these above tickles your fancy, you can find many more resources here.