Mental health care for elderly comes into focus

According to a new study self-harm is becoming a major health issue among the elderly. This is bringing into focus the issue of mental health among the elderly. The results of the study titled, “Self-harm in older adults: systematic review,” were published in the latest issue of the British Journal of Psychiatry.

The researchers have found that from 40 different studies (including a total of 62,755 older adults), that the self harm rates were around 65 per 100,000 people. The risk of repeat harm, attempts to suicide and successful suicide are also greater among the elderly, the study finds. Up until now the focus of mental health research has primarily been on adolescents and youth self harm and suicide. This meta analysis shows that the problem is not confined to younger age groups.

The researchers explain that in 2014 the World Health Organization (WHO) had found that suicide rates were highest among people over the age of 70 across the world. The Royal College of Psychiatrists (RCP) had also found that around 40 percent of the elderly attending GP clinics suffered from some form of mental ailment. In care homes this number was around 60 percent and in hospitals around 50 percent says the RCP. As the aging population increases in proportion, there is also a rise in mental health problems says the Mental Health Foundation. Around £11.5m was allotted to these organizations to combat mental health problems among elderly.

Some of the key factors in self harm among elderly include age, previous history of self harm, other physical ailments, other psychiatric ailments and isolation. There is inadequate access to help says the RCP with 85 percent of the elderly with depression receiving “no help from the NHS”. Symptoms of depression in the elderly are often attributed to old age rather than a clinical problem. Medication prescription rates are also higher among the elderly. This means that they are also at risk of overdosing and poisoning.

Authors Isabela Troya and colleagues conclude in their study, “Self-harm in older adults has distinct characteristics that should be explored to improve management and care... Given the frequent contact with health services, an opportunity exists for detection and prevention of self-harm and suicide in this population.”

Mental health services ‘broken and heading for crisis’

Mental health care staff are quitting the NHS for better paid and less stressful jobs says a report from UNISON.

The general perception among these workers is their inability to deliver quality medical help to their patients which is affecting their own mental health. The survey called Mental Health Matters looked at over 600 employees across the UK working with the NHS.

The results show that tightening of the budget and rising stress are driving these workers away from the NHS. Sara Gorton, UNISON’s Head of Health, said, “Staff in mental health services are facing burnout as a result of years of underfunding. It’s no wonder so many are thinking of finding better-paid and less-stressful jobs elsewhere. If this situation continues, the NHS risks losing staff who are passionate about making a difference. What’s needed is proper investment so staff can deliver the quality of care to those in need.”

Quitting smoking could help people with severe mental illness finds study

A new study showed the effects of quitting smoking on severe mental illness. The study titled, “Smoking cessation for people with severe mental illness (SCIMITAR+): a pragmatic randomized control” was published in the Lancet Psychiatry.

Authors Professor Simon Gilbody and colleagues found that smoking was thrice as common among people with schizophrenia and severe mental illness. In this trial they included heavy smokers with bipolar disorder or schizophrenia. The adult patients were from 16 primary care and 21 community-based mental health sites in the United Kingdom and smoked at least five cigarettes per day. They included a total of 526 participants between October 2015 to December 2016.

They were divided randomly into two groups - smoking cessation intervention using medication and counselling (265 participants) and usual care (261 participants). Results showed that those on the intervention quit more than those on usual care. The effects were most pronounced at 6 months of the intervention but the effects seemed to wane off at the end of a year. The authors conclude that more sustained efforts are needed for smoking cessation among the mental ill.

The study was funded by the National Institute for Health Research Health Technology Assessment Programme.

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Written by

Dr. Ananya Mandal

Dr. Ananya Mandal is a doctor by profession, lecturer by vocation and a medical writer by passion. She specialized in Clinical Pharmacology after her bachelor's (MBBS). For her, health communication is not just writing complicated reviews for professionals but making medical knowledge understandable and available to the general public as well.

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