When you think about identifying key aspects of an individual’s health, what comes to mind? Do you think about the strength and immunity of the physical body, how much exercise an individual is engaging in, the genetics a person is born with or the environment in which they currently live? These are all important indicators of health, but did you also consider how health is represented by an individual’s mental and emotional state? Mental health is a major factor in human well-being, health and wellness. Therefore, supporting either ourselves or those around us who may be suffering from mental health problems is an important step in creating healthier communities.

Every year on October 10th the World Health Organization (WHO) and other organizations around the globe celebrate World Mental Health Awareness Day, whose goal is to reduce the stigma surrounding mental illness.  Additionally, World Mental Health Day is recognized each year in order to raise awareness of mental health issues around the world and to mobilize mental health support.

Having a day dedicated to increasing advocacy and awareness can ensure that as a society we are moving in a direction of inclusiveness and dignity for individuals with diverse health backgrounds.

It is estimated that about 1 in 5 adults aged 65 and older, may suffer from a mental disorder including dementia, anxiety and mood disorders, or other types of cognitive impairment (Centers for Disease Control). Unfortunately, compared to their younger counterparts who suffer from similar disorders, older adults are less likely to receive treatment for them.

The good news about senior mental health disorders is that many of them can be mitigated with the right treatment plan. In addition to the possibility of clinical intervention using prescribed medications or therapy, there are several activities and resources available to help keep older adults engaged and in good mental health and spirits. Please refer to the sources below that outline some of these techniques!

Staying connected and maintaining strong, meaningful social connections with friends and family goes a long way towards preventing mental health challenges in seniors. The CDC reports that social support is associated with reduced risk of mental illness, physical illness and even mortality. At Meals on Wheels of Central Maryland (MOWCM) we believe that social interaction is an important and key part of keeping seniors independent and healthy. Through our home delivered meal program and various volunteer initiatives like Call Connections, we can provide our clients with a sense of safety and security.

Additionally, good nutrition is necessary to increase an individual’s health, functionality and the ability to remain independent. MOWCM recognizes the benefits of good nutrition on mental health and overall wellness including stronger immune systems, cognitive functioning, and the ability to stay independent in the home for longer.

World Mental Health Awareness Day marks an important time for people of all ages to consider the health of both oneself and those of loved ones. Perhaps this day may provide inspiration to reach a helping hand out to a neighbor, friend or stranger who may be in need. The goal of organizations coming together to recognize mental health awareness, is to inspire change and be a voice for individuals and communities in need. MOWCM invites you to be a part of the change in your own community!

Written by: Nicole Troy

Sources:

Rodriguez, D., Cuthrell, S., Whelan, C., Upham, B., Bruce, D. F., & Dolan, M. 10 easy ways seniors can boost their mental health and well-being: Everyday health. EverydayHealth.com. https://www.everydayhealth.com/news/easy-ways-seniors-can-boost-mental-health-well-being/.

The State of Mental Health and Aging in America. Centers for Disease Control. https://www.cdc.gov/aging/pdf/mental_health.pdf.

Tremblay, S. (2018, December 6). Does nutrition affect cognitive function? Healthy Eating | SF Gate. https://healthyeating.sfgate.com/nutrition-affect-cognitive-function-6132.html.

U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. Cognitive health and older adults. National Institute on Aging. https://www.nia.nih.gov/health/cognitive-health-and-older-adults.

Who | World Mental Health Day. https://www.who.int/mental_health/world_mental_health_day/en/.

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