The theme for International Mental Health Day this year is ‘mental health for all‘ and for later years, they are certainly no exception. This year, we would like to draw your attention to how Emotional Awareness is integral to supporting those in later years struggling with mental health issues.
The mental health of an older person over the age of 60 can be a tricky one to decipher. Being aware of the emotional signs of the physical and mental challenges facing an individual while understanding how they feel, one is better able to respond more appropriately with empathy and support them during the most difficult times. Assessing how the ageing process affects mental health will help forge a strong connection when it is most needed. Understanding emotions is equally significant as treating physical health and for those vulnerable to mental strain later in life you can be sure there will be someone who may seem fine on the outside, is struggling on in silence – perhaps a close friend, carer or even a loved one.
Emotional health is just as volatile as physical health in that it can get better or worse according to an individual’s circumstances and old age is no exception. Some families have reported being confused about how to gauge the emotional health of their nearest and dearest. When broaching the subject be mindful that for some elderly people, they will be reluctant to talk about their emotions directly for various reasons.
In some cases, they may react with embarrassment when talking about such subjects as mental health and depression. If an individual is used to keeping emotions in check for many years, either from upbringing or feeling under pressure to be strong for others, understandably big traumas might be dealt with in the same manner as the normal ebb and flow of life, even in the hardest of times like after a bereavement of a partner. Typically, physical signs of stress tend to show first, but awareness of emotional symptoms which follow provide extra clues about the underlying problems which may otherwise could go undetected.
The following are signs to beware of, but we all tend to respond differently to life’s challenges so anything that is not normal behaviour should be considered, such as:
• Slow emotional reactions • Agitation
• Emotional numbness
• Unable to cry • Memory Problems
• Angry outbursts due to frustration
Support could be as simple as a friend lending an ear for a time to help someone explore their individual emotional issues. Gentle encouragement and active listening are an extremely effective tool to forge connection. Emotional intelligence is derived from a flexible mindset and a preparedness for a change in direction away from the negative cycle of anger, negativity and depression which, when left unattended, are prone to consume a person’s overall well-being. It is possible to learn more about how to maintain emotional health through positive experiences which will encourage a more positive perspective needed for better mental health.