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Visions Journal

A reminder that this article from our magazine Visions was published more than 1 year ago. It is here for reference only. Some information in it may no longer be current. It also represents the point of the view of the author only. See the author box at the bottom of the article for more about the contributor.

Editor's Message

Eric Macnaughton

Reprinted from "Seniors' Mental Health" issue of Visions Journal, 2002, No. 15, p. 2

In this issue of Visions we look at seniors’ mental health. To help us in our examination of this topic, we are fortunate to have Dr. Martha Donnelly as Guest Editor. She, along with Dr. Penny MacCourt, co-chaired the Elderly Mental Health Care Working Group, which very recently produced a report for the Ministry of Health Services entitled Elderly Mental Health Care Planning for Best Practices. The report aided us immeasurably in preparing this issue of Visions.

The contributors to the Best Practices report comprised a wide network of people representing various professional disciplines, dedicated to helping elderly people deal with mental illness or with mental health-related issues. Fortunately, we’ve been able to enlist many of the same individuals to write articles for our current issue — describing initiatives with which they are involved, spanning most of BC, and helping elderly individuals from diverse ethnocultural backgrounds.

Despite the emphasis of the Best Practices report title on care planning, the focus of the report’s contents is wide. Among other things, it looks at seniors’ mental health promotion, at peer support, at approaches to ensuring accountable services, at protecting vulnerable seniors from abuse and neglect, and at the training needs of caregivers outside the formal mental health system, especially those who are “on the front lines,” such as family members, home care and long-term care workers, and family physicians. Accordingly, we’ve been able to look at most of the same topics in the current issue of Visions.

For the most part, our “first-person” articles span the range of issues reflected in the rest of the journal. We’ll hear the stories and perspectives of mental health consumers or caregivers who for much of their lives have lived with mental illness, as they describe how they’ve managed their illnesses over time. We’ll also hear from individuals who have developed an illness, such as depression, later in life. And we’ll read stories from both professional and family caregivers of individuals with dementia.

As one looks through these stories, and learns about the various programs available for seniors with mental health problems, two words — “complexity” and “connectedness” — come frequently to mind. The first indicates the multiple issues that seniors with mental health problems often deal with: not merely depression, for example, but perhaps chronic pain, or some other physical health problem too, may be part of the picture for the individual in question. By nature then, seniors’ mental health interventions often require collaborative, multidisciplinary efforts.

The second word relates to another part of the solution, which is the recognition that our services and resources must not only deal with the mental illness itself, but with the elderly individual’s relationship to his or her family and with society in general. Disconnection from the family unit, and devalued status within society are perhaps some of the biggest issues we can tackle as we promote seniors’ mental health within our programs, and amongst our aging population as a whole.

About the author
Eric is Director of Research and Policy at CMHA BC Division and Visions’ Editor

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