The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) launched a new program today designed to help families, friends and caregivers – as well as seniors themselves – recognize mental health problems or illnesses and intervene early.
Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) Seniors, the latest adaptation of the MHFA basic course, developed in consultation with experts in the field of geriatric psychiatry, was officially unveiled this morning during an event at the Mississauga Senior Citizens’ Centre.
“Poor mental health should not be dismissed as the inevitable consequence of aging,” says Louise Bradley, President and CEO of the MHCC. “Rather, we need to focus on a senior person’s abilities and recognize when that behavior is not normal for them and warrants concern or intervention. This course is the ideal tool to facilitate this shift in attitude, equipping people with the knowledge they need to have effective conversations and to reach out with confidence.”
Mental Health First Aid is the help provided to a person developing a mental health problem or experiencing a mental health crisis. Just like physical first aid is provided until medical treatment can be obtained, MHFA is given until appropriate support is found or until the crisis is resolved.
The MHCC paired with Trillium Health Partners, an organization that prioritizes seniors’ health and wellness, and its foundation, to tailor the content to the unique needs of seniors. This work was supported in part by a grant from GlaxoSmithKline.
“Developing the MHFA for seniors with the Mental Health Commission of Canada was a natural fit for Trillium Health Partners and the Trillium Health Partners Foundation,” says Dr. Ian Dawe, Program Chief and Medical Director of Mental Health at Trillium Health Partners. “The course fills an important gap in seniors’ mental health care and has far reaching benefits for seniors across the country.”
In Canada, more than 1.8 million people over the age of 60 live with a mental health problem or illness. As the average age of the Canadian population climbs, it is important to recognize the factors that make seniors more resistant to poor mental health. Good overall health, maintaining the ability to participate in physical and other activities, and strong social connections are vital to good mental health and their absence can leave seniors vulnerable.
“I’ve taken the course material and applied it to my own life,” says Denise Waligora, Training and Delivery Specialist with MHFA, who has been involved in the care of her elderly father. “Facilitating this course has definitely provided me with the skills to better support my parents as they age.”
In addition to covering the MHFA basics—psychosis, anxiety, mood disorders and substance use disorders—the seniors’ adaptation adds sections on dementia and delirium, weaving information for caregivers throughout with an emphasis on self-care. The course cautions participants against the popular misconception that dementia is overwhelmingly the most common mental health problem among seniors. Contrary to popular belief, in people over 65, anxiety, depression and substance use disorders are as common as dementia and cognitive impairments. However, seniors may be less likely to report psychiatric concerns to their family doctor, leading to their symptoms being misconstrued as early dementia or other age-related changes.
This fall, two-day courses in MHFA Seniors will be available across Canada, in addition to five-day train-the-trainer courses.
- People in Canada over the age of 65 are less likely than the rest of the population to report their own mental health as very good or excellent (68.9% and 72.2% respectively in 2011).
- Dementia or other neurodegenerative conditions, as well as physically chronic diseases, often co-occur with other mental health problems or illnesses.
- Older adults with mental health problems or illnesses can account for as many as one-quarter of emergency department visits.
- Older adults have lengthier hospital stays for mental health problems or illnesses compared to their counterparts aged 45-64 years (29 and 16 days respectively).
- The most tragic complication of mood disorders is death by suicide; older men are especially at risk of dying by suicide.
ABOUT THE MENTAL HEALTH COMMISSION OF CANADA
The Mental Health Commission of Canada is a catalyst for change. We are collaborating with hundreds of partners to change the attitudes of Canadians toward mental health problems and to improve services and support. Our goal is to help people who live with mental health problems and illnesses lead meaningful and productive lives. Together we create change. The Mental Health Commission of Canada is funded by Health Canada.
www.mentalhealthcommission.ca | strategy.mentalhealthcommission.ca
TRILLIUM HEALTH PARTNERS
Trillium Health Partners is one of the largest community-based acute care facilities in Canada. Comprised of Credit Valley Hospital, the Mississauga Hospital and the Queensway Health Centre, Trillium Health Partners serves the growing and diverse populations of Mississauga, West Toronto and surrounding communities. Trillium Health Partners is a teaching hospital affiliated with the University of Toronto. Trillium Health Partners is an associate member of the Toronto Academic Health Science Network.
TRILLIUM HEALTH PARTNERS FOUNDATION
Trillium Health Partners Foundation was formed in July 2013 upon the successful amalgamation of Trillium Health Centre Foundation and The Credit Valley Hospital Foundation. Together as one foundation, Trillium Health Partners Foundation is dedicated to raising the critical funds needed to address the highest priority needs of Trillium Health Partners.
Hélène Côté, Senior Communications Advisor, Public Affairs
Mental Health Commission of Canada