Older people are not using the various ‘talking therapies’ on offer to help with mental health issues, according to a leading charity.
A new report by Independent Age says people aged 65 and over make up just 6% of NHS talking therapy patients in England.
Talking therapies, which include counselling, cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) and guided self-help, are available through NHS England’s Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) programme to treat issues such as depression and anxiety.
People are often referred to these services by their GP.
In its new Minds that matter report, Independent Age says the 6% figure is too low given the age profile of the population – with 18% aged 65+ – and the prevalence of mental health conditions in the community.
Polling commissioned by Independent Age for the Minds That Matter report showed that nearly half (46%) of people in this age group were also not aware of talking therapies.
The report notes that despite the low rates of IAPT referral and low levels of awareness, people in later life often respond well to this support.
Data from the programme for 2019-20 shows that people aged 65+ had an overall recovery rate of 64%, compared to 50% for people aged 18-64.
‘Now, more than ever, it’s critical that we take the mental health of people aged 65+ seriously. Even prior to COVID-19, people in later life regularly had to cope without their mental health needs being met, with 10% of people aged over 65 saying they experience significant anxiety or low mood frequently or all the time,’ said charity chief executive, Deborah Alsina.
‘COVID-19 has brought extra challenges around bereavement, but we’ve also seen an increase in mental health problems such as depression and anxiety – in fact, ONS statistics show that rates of depression have doubled for people aged over 70. This is an urgent problem.’
Responding to the report, Cllr Ian Hudspeth, chairman of the Local Government Association’s community wellbeing board, said: ‘We need a new national focus on helping everyone stay mentally well, including those affected by COVID-19, backed-up by funding for councils to spend with the voluntary and community sector on meeting local mental wellbeing needs.
‘This should include a shift in focus and funding away from simply treating mental ill-health and towards a locally-led approach to promoting people’s mental wellbeing throughout their lives.’
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