"A double whammy" is how Paolo del Vecchio, M.S.W., describes
the plight of older people who have mental illnesses. "These
older adults not only experience discrimination related to getting
old, but they face the stigma associated with mental illness on
top of that," said Mr. del Vecchio, Associate Director for
Consumer Affairs at SAMHSA's Center for Mental Health Services (CMHS).
The stigma is compounded for members of racial/ethnic minority
groups and residents of rural communities.
CMHS convened two roundtables early in the year with help from
the Geriatric Mental Health Foundation and the National Mental Health
Awareness Campaign to find ways to counter stigma. The events convened
researchers, advocates, practitioners, media representatives, grant
writers, and consumers of mental health services.
Roundtable participants began by identifying types of stigma.
For example, older people are often afraid to acknowledge their
own mental illness.
Participants also identified barriers, such as a lack of understanding,
resources, and competent providers. In response, participants formulated
a strategy that centers on a two-part awareness campaign.
One effort would focus on empowering older people with mental
illness by educating them. "One of the ways to effect positive
change is to engage more older adults," said Mr. del Vecchio.
A broader effort would use the media to send a positive message
about mental health and aging to older people, their adult children,
and the public. Recommendations include producing articles for use
in senior center newsletters, briefing journalists on mental health
and aging issues, and developing public service announcements.
SAMHSA will use the recommendations as the Agency starts planning
a national anti-stigma campaign this fall. For more information,
contact Paolo del Vecchio at email@example.com.
Part 1: Older Adults: Improving Mental Health Services
Part 2: Older Adults: Improving Mental Health Services
See AlsoOlder AdultsRelated
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