Mental health summit examines issues affecting older people

Mental Health Victoria hosted the Ageing and Mental Health Summit in Melbourne in July. This one-day event discussed issues of mental health that affect older people in a variety of contexts. Melanie Joosten, Policy Officer, represented Seniors Rights Victoria. She spoke about the intersection of mental health and elder abuse and how the Victorian mental health system needs to change to better support older people.

The summit discussed how elder abuse can cause people stress, depression and anxiety, and can exacerbate these (and other) mental health conditions. In response, psychologists, psychiatrists and counsellors need to have a greater understanding of elder abuse and the challenges people face as they age. Proper treatment and support can help older people address the abuse they have encountered, and safeguard against it happening again.

Many people in the community who care for a family member with a mental illness find there is very little recognition of their role and the difficulties they face. In particular, ageing parents who support and care for an adult child with mental illness can find it difficult to access mental health treatment for their child, and to be properly included and recognised as a carer by those health services offering treatment.

The summit was an excellent opportunity to discuss these issues with professionals working in mental health. Ronda Held, former CEO COTA Victoria, Marie Piu, the CEO of Tandem, the peak body representing Victorian mental health carers, and Marita McCabe, who leads the Health and Ageing Research Group at Swinburne University of Technology, were able to bring further insights to a productive discussion. Other panels focused on policy developments in mental health for older people, and barriers and opportunities in service provision.