As we near the end of Mental Health Awareness Month, I’d like to share this information sent to us by Sally Writes about dealing with elderly depression:
Spiritual Support Central to Treating Elderly Depression
Mental illness and depression among the elderly is a serious problem. People aged 65 and older make up 13% of the US population, but account for over 18% of all suicides. Depression is a very personal illness, and no two cases are identical, but there are patterns you can detect that can alert you to if yourself or a loved one is struggling with the condition. Instances of suicide happen more often when feelings of hopelessness are compounded and amplified by social and spiritual isolation. Emphasizing a reconnection of the strong foundation of loved ones and belief practices and traditions that a person has relied on in the past can help revive a sense of joy in life. Alongside proper psychiatric treatment, spiritual practice can guide them on the road to recovery.
Knowing is half the battle
Depression in the elderly can arrive as such an immersive and pervasive feeling that the one suffering from it may not easily recognize it as a problem distinct from their life and who they are. This often adds to the hopelessness. It is important to be aware of the warning signs of depression so that the first step can be taken: identifying the problem. When alert to these symptoms, you will be able to take action on how to treat the illness with professional help when needed and guide the one who is suffering back to health.
Connection: the big picture
Spiritual and social context are very important in recovery and prevention. One of the earliest scientific researchers into the problem of suicide was the French sociologist Émile Durkheim. He identified four general classifications of suicide. In fatalistic or egoistic suicide, common among young cases, the individual feels either oppressed by society, or radically out of place as an individual. Altruistic suicide is connected to a fatal devotion to honor. Anomic suicide, named after the sense of anomie, being completely uprooted from familiar boundaries and supports.
Returning to the center
When cultures and lifestyles change radically or rapidly, feelings of anomie are commonplace. This often happens in the physical and spiritual isolation that can accompany old age. Studying the patterns of 19th century Europe, Durkheim discovered that elderly male farmers were particularly vulnerable to these risks. More recent studies of suicide in India have shown that Durkheim’s hypotheses still hold true in present day circumstances. The community, grounding and connection that spiritual practice and understanding provides, shines a warm light into the darkness that the lost and hopeless feelings of anomie cast on an individual.
Depression is an illness that thrives on silence. Identifying the problems and bringing them out into the open is crucial. Even if the condition is not severe or clinical, the compassion of listening and communication will help. And by maintaining a solid framework of spiritual support, the despair of anomie can be kept at bay, even in the most trying of times.