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Bringing Awareness to the Mental Health of Older Adults

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Date: May 20, 2019
Category: Mental Health

Our population is aging. Approximately 75 million Americans will be over age 65 by 2030. Additionally, a 2012 study from the Institute on Medicine found that approximately one in five older adults in the U.S. experience a mental illness, substance use disorder, or both. That ratio, should it still exist in 2030, equates to approximately 15 million people.

Whether it is the 5.7 million adults aged 65 and older who binge drink in the past month, or the 1.5 million adults aged 65 and older who used an illicit drug in the past month according to SAMHSA’s 2017 National Survey on Drug Use and Health—including over 7,000 opioid-overdose related deaths in 2016 reported by the CDC—the growing number of older adults with mental health, substance use disorders or both, is likely to have a tremendous impact on the health and wellbeing of our nation. It could also mean that we or someone close to us – a friend, family member, co-worker or neighbor – will be personally impacted.

SAMHSA is focused on improving mental health across the lifespan and has worked with the National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging and the Administration on Aging/Administration for Community Living for over a decade to address the concerns of states, provider organizations, individuals, and families related to the mental health and substance use disorder needs of older adults. SAMHSA recognizes that older adults have needs that require special attention and training in order to provide the best care and treatment.

To highlight the needs of older Americans, SAMHSA, in conjunction with National Coalition on Mental Health and Aging and the Administration on Aging/Administration for Community Living, will celebrate National Older Adults Mental Health Awareness Day on May 20, 2019. This second annual celebratory event will focus on promoting evidence-based approaches for topics of mental health and aging specifically related to the prevention, including suicide prevention, treatment, trauma-informed care, and recovery support options for older adults with mental illnesses and substance use disorders. The event will be webcast live from 1:00 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. EST at the Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. You can register here to tune in to the celebration and join the conversation on social media using the hashtag #OAMHAD19

Aging is a fact of life and it is important for us to focus on healthy aging, including behavioral health issues not only during May, which is both Older Americans Month and Mental Health Awareness Month, but throughout the year.

Free resources on mental health and substance use disorders among older adults:

Finding Help and Treatment: