Merle is a 76-year-old widower who still lives on a farm in western Kansas. His family is concerned that he is alone too much and encourages him to visit the local senior center. He occasionally visited the center but complained of an upset stomach and chest pains following the visits. After a thorough physical, Merle’s doctor investigated the possibility of an anxiety disorder which was aggravated by social situations. He found that Merle had always been uncomfortable in groups of people. The doctor convinced Merle to try an anti-anxiety medication. Merle found relief from his physical symptoms and was able to be involved with others at the center.
What is Mental Health?
Mental health is not easy to define, but aging successfully should mean good mental health. This does not mean that an older person never experiences any problems or disease, but that symptoms are treated and controlled, and do not interfere with leading a rewarding life. Unfortunately, many older people still believe the myth that mental health problems result from personal failure or weakness. This stigma means that they may not want to admit that a problem or symptom exists, and do not seek help.
Mental disorders are not part of normal aging. Circumstances that can contribute to the development of mental health disorders in older adults include social isolation, stressful living conditions, bereavement, acute and chronic health conditions, and the burden of having to take care of a seriously impaired family member. Those at greatest risk have a great deal of stress, have difficulty adapting to changes in circumstances and routines, do not have supportive relationships, have difficulty relying on others to help cope with losses, or tend to have a negative outlook on life. Many older people develop mental health problems for the first time when they are in their later years. It is important to remember that these problems are treatable.
Who do I call for more information?
Community Mental Health Centers receive state and local funds to provide mental health services to individuals in their provider area. They have sliding-scale fees and accept Medicaid, Medicare, private insurance and private pay. Click here to find a Community Mental Health Centers in Kansas or visit our resource page for more information.