Depression doesn’t have to be a black hole – there is help out there

Media reports are full of statistics showing that depression is on the rise, with more antidepressants being prescribed than ever.

The reports cite work, education and relationship pressures as among the top reasons for this growing angst – yet for a retired, older person it is precisely the disappearance of these pressures that can have the same despairing effect, along with an increasing likelihood of bereavement and ill health.

According to NHS statistics, 22 per cent of men over 65 and a whopping 28 per cent of women in this age group have been diagnosed with depression.

Yet many older people tend to suffer in silence.

“Older people grew up at a time when it was less easy to ask for help,” says Lucy. “They can find it very hard to even admit they are lonely and depressed, and one of the key obstacles to seeking help is they feel they would be adding a burden to others.”

The situation is changing, in part thanks to celebrities like Esther Rantzen, who was the first person to highlight the issue in the media, says Lucy.

“People can find it hard to motivate themselves and experience a loss of interest in things they previously enjoyed. Sometimes they turn to alcohol, or over eat, or their sleeping patterns become disturbed. But there is help out there – they just don’t always know how to find it,” says Lucy.

So where to go if depression sets in? The first port of call should be the GP – and it really is their responsibility to help, so put aside any feelings of embarrassment and make an appointment.

“They will have all the necessary numbers to refer people to,” says Lucy. “And if they prescribe medication, that might be worth trying. There is a stigma attached to antidepressants but they can also have an extremely positive effect.”

Lucy says there is evidence to suggest that more active people do not suffer as much when it comes to depression. Just one regular activity a week adds structure and purpose.

Independent Age has lots of advice on its website, www.Independentage.org, and the charity’s helpline number is 0800 319 6789. It also has suggestions for anyone wanting to help, from a weekly half-hour phone call to visits, shopping assistance and giving advice.

FACTS

• In older people (65+) 22% of men and 28% of women live with depression.

• Yet it’s estimated that 85% of these do not seek treatment.

• Depression is not a normal part of ageing. It can be treated.

• 5 key reasons for depression in older people are discrimination, lack of participation in activities, poverty, physical health, relationship problems.

• In 2014, over 65s made up 18% of the population.

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