October home care spotlight: Depression and mental health screening

Let mental health be the focus this October as you reach out in your community. There are several October health observances that highlight mental health issues and provide you with an opportunity to begin a conversation about depression, mental illness, and other issues affecting your service population.

October is National Depression and Mental Health Screening Month, Oct. 1-Oct. 7 is Mental Illness Awareness Week, Oct. 5 is National Depression Screening Day, Oct. 10 is World Mental Health Day.

According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, depression affects more than 6.5 million of the country’s 35 million people age 65 or older. Changes common in later life that often contribute to depression include retirement, medical problems, the death of loved ones and increased isolation. Help educate your community’s seniors about this and other mental health issues.

  • Start by researching the issues. HelpGuide has a wealth of information about depression in older adults. Create a flyer about recognizing the signs of depression and feature your agency’s logo and referral information.
  • Contact a local seniors’ grief support group and offer to join them to discuss common mental health issues. Be sure to discuss your agency’s companionship services. Take along snacks for the participants.
  • Sign up to participate in local health fairs this month. In addition to information about your agency’s services, spread the word about the importance of depression and mental health screening among seniors.
  • Alzheimer’s disease can cause symptoms related to mental health, including anxiety, hallucinations, depression and anxiety. Contact your local Alzheimer’s Association and volunteer to help support its October Walk to End Alzheimer’s. Spread the word of your participation on your website and through your social media streams.
  • According to the National Institute of Mental Health, people age 65 and older made up only 12 percent of the nation’s population, but they accounted for 16 percent of suicides in 2004. Create a flyer about suicide risk among older adults and leave it in residential facilities, senior centers and local physician waiting rooms. Be sure to include the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline number: 1–800–273–TALK (8255).
  • Host a community education class about Understanding Depression at your local senior centers. Call TAG Partners at 866-232-6477 for individual component pricing for this ready-made class that a non-clinician can present.
  • Check out NAMI’s resource toolkit for observing Mental Illness Awareness Week.  You’ll find materials such as awareness graphics, sample press release, and sample letter to the editor to help begin your outreach.
  • Learn more about screening for depression at the website of Screening for Mental Health.