Maintaining positive psychological and emotional well-being throughout our lifespan is a challenge for all of us.

In recent years, there has been a heightened focus on youth suicide prevention and measures to address bullying both direct and via cyber channels of social media.  And rightly so.

The impact of bullying upon a person’s capacity to live a full life is well documented and most organisations have a workplace bullying policy to prevent such behaviours. The loss of any life which is avoidable is tragic, especially if it is the life of a young person through suicide.

Surprisingly, the highest rate of suicide in Australia is for men over 85 years of age. Compare the figures for males aged 15 -19 years old, with those of older men. The suicide rate for young men is 13.4 deaths per 100,000 and for men aged 85 and older, it is 38 deaths per 100,000.

In recognition of the increased need for mental health services for the aged, Australian Government Minister for Health, the Hon. Greg Hunt has committed a further five million dollars for seven research projects. These projects are focused on practical approaches to suicide prevention among older Australians.

According to research conducted by the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare, Australia’s Welfare 2015, ‘suicidal behaviours are complex and there is usually no single cause or stressor which is sufficient to explain either fatal or non-fatal suicidal behaviour’. As noted by the World Health Organisation, ‘most commonly, several risk factors from systemic, societal community, relationship and individual domains act cumulatively to increase an individual’s vulnerability to suicidal behaviour’. (WHO 2014)

The mental health of older people may be adversely affected by the loss of independence, reduction in mobility and/or disability or through a pre-existing or recent onset of a chronic health condition.

One of the features of the 2018 Federal Budget was the allocation of $102 million for mental health support services for seniors, including more than $80 million for those in residential care and $20 million for mental health nurses within the broader community outside residential care.

Home care packages accessed through the Commonwealth Home Support Programme, are designed to meet individual needs on a consumer directed care basis. These packages assist an individual to live an independent and meaningful life connected to community.  More information is available here: https://www.myagedcare.gov.au/help-home/home-care-packages/about-home-care-packages

In 2016 -17 almost 800,000 people used entry-level home support services from the CHSP and in WA through the Home and Community Care (HACC) programme. (GEN Aged Care Data, Australian Institute of Health and Welfare). More than 1 in 5 (23%) of people using aged care during 2016 – 2017 accessed residential care.

In 2018, social support services are provided as part of the CHSP programme Australia-wide, along with a range of aged care specific social programs delivered by a range of community groups and organisations such as the Australian Men’s Shed Association and Senior Citizens. These organisations provide a range of opportunities for seniors to interact with each other, engage in physical activities and/or participate in a range of creative pursuits. The Men’s Shed offers men the opportunity to socialise and raise issues of concerns with other men, which often is the link between an individual and their seeking of professional assistance.

An online Senior Services Guide available at: http://www.seniorservicesguide.com.au/ has a host of activities that seniors can participate in to maintain connections with others in the community. One such activity is hosted by Citizen Science which offers the opportunity for seniors to sort images of galaxies to support NASA’s Hubble Space Telescope. The oldest volunteer is 96.

Positive mental health is essential for all. If you or anyone else needs help to manage their mental health, these contacts may be of assistance.

MensLine Australia 1300 789 978

Suicide Call Back Service on 1300 659 467

Beyond Blue on 1300 22 46 36

Headspace on 1800 650 890

Kids Helpline on 1800 551 800

Lifeline on 13 11 14