UN marks World Mental Health Day by focusing on well-being of ageing populations

A mental health counsellor talks with clients in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo: WHO/Marko Kokic

10 October 2013 – Citizens over 60 years of age must have access to social and health services to ensure their physical and mental well-being, the United Nations said today, marking World Mental Health Day.

“We can all benefit from the warmth and wisdom of older generations. But while many people look forward to a fulfilling old age, more than one in five adults aged 60 and over experiences mental or neurological disorders such as dementia and depression,” Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon said in his message for the Day, which this year focuses on older adults.

According to UN figures, the proportion of those aged over 60 is expected to increase from just over 605 million in 2000 to 2 billion by 2050.

Mr. Ban said the Day is an opportunity to raise awareness of the problems surrounding mental health in older persons.

“Health care professionals and older people themselves often do not recognize these mental health problems. Worse, people are frequently reluctant to seek help because of the stigma surrounding mental illness,” he said. “Older adults are also vulnerable to physical neglect and shameful mistreatment – abuse that can itself trigger mental health problems.”

Mr. Ban highlighted the World Health Organization’s (WHO) Comprehensive Mental Health Action Plan for the period 2013-2020, which seeks to strengthen effective leadership and governance for mental health, provide comprehensive and responsive mental health and social care services in community-based settings, implement strategies for promotion and prevention in mental health, and strengthen information systems, evidence and research in this area.

The Plan also calls for taking account of health and social needs at all stages of life, from infancy through childhood, adolescence, adulthood and older age.

“On this World Mental Health Day, I call for greater efforts to carry out the Action Plan for the sake of all people with mental health problems, especially those who are older and require special attention,” Mr. Ban said. “This compassionate response will benefit all of society.”


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