What is the issue?
People 65 and older make up about 20 per cent of Canada’s population (and growing). But the data on risk level or how many are experiencing mental health concerns and conditions is lacking. What we do know is that older adults face health, support, and environmental barriers that limit their ability to achieve the best mental health and care outcomes.
According to the World Health Organization, the mental health of older adults is often overlooked due to health scenarios that complicate prevention, detection, diagnosis, treatment, and management.
For those in equity-deserving groups, additional barriers further marginalize them within their social and care environments. Given Canada’s increasing diversity, it’s essential to recognize, understand, and address how stigma and discrimination are impacting their experience.
- As many as 1 in 3 older adults living on their own say they have a need for mental health care.
- 12% of those 65 and older have reported feeling social isolated.
- Delays in diagnosis increase as people age.
- 22% of older adults in one study screened positive for depression.
- 5% of older adults access health services for mood or anxiety disorders.
What are we doing?
Developing a framework for action on older adult mental health and well-being
The framework is being informed by a rapid scoping review of literature, by experts in the field, and by older adults with lived and living experience of mental health concerns or illnesses.
Bringing a mental health lens to the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing
We are aligning our work with the UN Decade of Healthy Ageing (2021-2030) initiative (The Decade), a global collaboration to improve the lives of older people and their families and enhance the communities they live in. By bringing a mental health and wellness focus to The Decade’s four action areas, we will show how improvements can be made for older adults in the Canadian context.
Read our explainer to learn more about evidence-based strategies to support older adults.
Guidelines and tools to better support older adult mental health
- Guidelines for Comprehensive Mental Health Services for Older Adults in Canada (Guidelines) is designed to help policy makers and service providers plan, develop, and implement a mental health service system that better responds to the aging population.
- Summary: Guidelines for Comprehensive Mental Health Services for Older Adults in Canada
- Compendium of Good Practices for Improving Seniors Mental Health in Canada, a resource to support the implementation of the Guidelines
- Supporting Older Adults: Using Principles and Values to Promote Best Practice, a checklist designed to help individuals and organizations put the Guideline’s principles and values into action.
- Applying the Guidelines for Comprehensive Mental Health Services for Older Adults in Canada during COVID-19, a resource discussing how the Guidelines can be leveraged in a COVID-19 context
Taking care of health-care workers
- Addressing psychosocial factors for long-term care workers during COVID-19, a brief that offers policy change considerations to better support long-term care workers’ psychological well-being.
- Advancing psychological health and safety within health-care settings. Learn why protecting and promoting the mental health of health-care workers is crucial to sustaining our system of care.
Mental Health First Aid
MHFA Seniors is a course to increase the capacity of older adults and their families (informal caregivers), friends, care-setting staff, and communities to promote mental health.
Mental health promotion
Mental Health First Aid – Supporting Older Adults
E-mental health with stepped care
Informing the Future
Mental Health Indicators for Canada
The Mental Health Commission of Canada (MHCC) has developed a range of projects to help policy makers, service providers, and caregivers ensure that older Canadians get the mental health supports they need.
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