Nashville testing program to help seniors with depression

Nashville testing program to help seniors with depression

By: AP

NASHVILLE (AP) — Nashville is one of two test sites for a publicity campaign that aims to get seniors suffering from depression to seek help.
Experts say seniors are at serious risk for depression because they are likely to experience traumatic events, such as the death of family and friends and serious health problems.
White men who are 85 and older have the highest suicide rate of any group, with 49.8 suicide deaths per 100,000 compared with about 11 per 100,000 for the general population.
“We want to get the word out that depression is treatable and it’s not a normal part of aging,” said Dr. Gary J. Kennedy, a board member of the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation, which is conducting the depression awareness campaign in Nashville and Baltimore.
Kennedy said symptoms of depression such as changes in sleep patterns, indecisiveness and losing interest in activities are too often written off as a normal part of aging. However, even when depression is recognized, seniors are sometimes hesitant to seek treatment.
“The older generation still thinks of taking medication for depression as some kind of moral failure,” Kennedy said.
Also, the cost of counseling can be prohibitive. Medicare recipients pay only a 20 percent co-pay to go to a doctor for physical problems. But they have a 50 percent co-pay for mental health services.
“We know that counseling can be just as effective as medication,” Kennedy said. “The way Medicare is set up, it sends a message that this service isn’t necessary. It’s an indulgence.”
Marjorie Rowell fell into a debilitating depression after her son died last year. The 82-year-old Murfreesboro woman said she didn’t want to do anything but sit in a chair in her house.
“It’s just an emptiness inside you,” Rowell said. “You just feel numb.”
But Rowell did get help and said she feels better because of it.
“There’s a hole in my heart that will always be there, but I’ve accepted it,” she said. “I don’t feel sad.”
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Information from: The Tennessean, http://www.tennessean.com
Published in The Messenger 1.2.08

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