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An Inquiry Into the Undervalued Elderly Mental Illness in Singapore

Any other mental illness is a significant medical condition that may be treated, not merely another hallmark of aging. But as we get older, it becomes increasingly likely that seniors may experience mental problems.

Pay close attention to your elderly parents' sudden mood swings, isolation, and persistent groans of agony rather than ignoring them. These could be symptoms of age-related mental disorder, which is curable and preventable.

Individuals suffering from mental illness require the same support and assistance from those around them as other patients do in order to recover. Additionally, in order to assess how we might assist, it is crucial that we comprehend how people with mental health disorders are affected in their day-to-day lives.

Understanding Mental Illness

Fundamentally speaking, mental illness is defined as a psychological disorder that affects our ability to think, feel, and act normally. It impacts not only the lives of our elderly loved ones and friends but also the things we do every day.

The most prevalent mental illnesses are mood, anxiety, and bipolar disorder, which affect one in seven Singaporeans at several stages in life, as found in the Singapore Mental Health study. Mentally ill people still endure a lot of prejudice and discrimination, despite how common they are.

Even though Singapore's healthcare system is largely accessible, some populations continue to evade its provisions. It is indeed common practice to ignore vulnerable people like migratory workers and women dealing with pre-and postnatal depression. The mental health community remains to be crucial in easing access to treatment. Also, structural barriers including financial constraints and citizenship status, frequently limit an individual's treatment for their mental health condition. As a result of these cultural barriers, most of these people are apprehensive about seeking assistance and treatment.

What Does the Mental Health Sector in Singapore Look Like?

In general, the importance of mental health is the same everywhere, including in Singapore. Primarily, the prevalence of mental health issues has increased from one in eight a few years ago to one in seven today, with the main contenders being major depressive disorder, alcoholism, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD).

Additionally, according to a 2018 mental health census by the Institute of Mental Health (IMH), up from 12% in 2010, 14% of Singapore citizens have had some sort of mental health disorder at some point in their lives. Notwithstanding this, the vast majority of them would not pursue any type of mental health support and assistance for their mental health conditions, and those who do usually do so much later than necessary after the problem manifests.

Such a scenario is largely due to the stigma surrounding mental illness, which is still pervasive in Asian nations like Singapore. Because of the social stigma, mental health problems are perceived as undesirable and abnormal behavior rather than as benign conditions that are acknowledged as normal. It also serves as the motivating factor behind inadequate support and access to mental health services for the physical symptoms as well as the mental origin, with broader, more profound effects on society.

How Does Mental Illness Manifest in the Elderly?

However, an elderly relative who may be depressed asserts they don't even actually feel sad at all, despite the fact that it may seem like melancholy and depression are interchangeable. Instead, individuals can complain about their lack of motivation, desire, or its effects on their physical health. In truth, arthritic pain or a relapse of headaches are typically the first physical indicators of depression in older people.

Alongside various medical illnesses and disabilities, major depression usually co-occurs and lasts a long time in senior citizens. Depression in elderly individuals is associated with cardiovascular disease and death from illness. Additionally, depression reduces an elderly person's ability to recover.

The Elderly's Mental Health & the COVID-19 Pandemic

It is difficult to pinpoint a single cause of sadness or several other mental illnesses in practically any age group. The condition might have a genetic component, according to several findings. However, genetic, social, and psychological factors all have an impact on mental illnesses in older people.

In actuality, lack of social connection and social isolation are known to be major risk factors for mental illness in Singapore. The emotional support offered by social relationships can lessen the impacts of stress while also promoting a sense of life's significance and purpose. Such belongingness creates a beneficial vicious circle for social, psychological, and physical health. Yet, it has become much more difficult to interact with others around us and create helpful relationships amid the Covid-19 pandemic and the necessary isolating that goes with it.

Strengthen Your Senior Loved Ones' Social Support

Asking for assistance is challenging for someone suffering from depression and other mental disorders since it drains their strength and sense of identity. Elders who are depressed may find it particularly difficult if they don't believe that depression is a severe illness, feel too ashamed or self-conscious to ask for assistance, or are concerned about inconveniencing their families. These elders may have been raised during a period when there was still a mental health stigma and it was misrepresented excessively.

When elderly relatives present indications of any mental illness, you can help them by offering emotional support, even though they live in assisted living facilities. Pay attention to your loved one with patience and kindness, especially those with poor mental health. There's no need to attempt to treat someone's depression; simply being there to listen suffices. Contrary to popular belief, you shouldn't condemn the sentiments being voiced; instead, emphasize the realities and provide support.

Seek Treatment and Professional Help with Red Crowns

Elderly people may be reluctant to accept psychological treatment, or it may be challenging for family members to convince them to see a mental health professional if they believe that doing so is a manifestation of weakness or fragility. Older people frequently receive inadequate care and inappropriate diagnoses, which can ultimately make any mental illness severe.

As the nation's population ages, it is important to recognize and treat age-related mental diseases in older people, particularly those who are in nursing homes. Many people wonder if depression can be prevented and how they might be capable of reducing their risk of getting the illness.

While adopting a healthy lifestyle may have a long-term positive effect on your mental health, most depressive episodes are uncontrollable. You must keep a watch on your senior family members since serious mental illnesses call for medical attention. Most importantly, let them know that nursing homes for the elderly like Red Crowns are always there to support them and that they are not alone in confronting their challenges.

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