We all know that tending to our mental health is equally as important as our physical health.
For many older Australians, depression and feelings of isolation or loneliness can be common. More likely to experience physical illness or personal loss, our elderly loved ones sometimes find themselves struggling to ask for help.
I encourage everyone to check in with their older relatives, friends, and neighbours and start the conversation about their mental health and wellbeing.
Reduce the stigma
Discussions around mental health are becoming more common place, however it is still seldom talked about amongst older generations. Some older people have never spoken about how they feel because it wasn’t normalised when they were growing up.
Others worry that they will be treated differently if they talk to someone about how they are feeling. Not wanting to feel like a burden, they can sometimes keep feelings of sadness and seclusion to themselves.
If you have a loved one you suspect may be suffering from loneliness or depression, talking can be the easiest way to reduce stigma. Normalising conversations around emotions can make it easier to identify risks and manage problems.
But these conversations can be tricky. Here are some tips on how to ask if someone is okay.
Find a safe space
Think about a quiet, safe space to have the discussion. Let them know that you are there to talk about how they are feeling, be clear you are there to listen, and provide support.
Show you care
Beyondblue provides a number of conversation starters that encourage a healthy discussion about how your loved one is feeling, such as “You haven’t seemed yourself lately – is everything OK?”
At the end of the conversation, work out what help you can provide. This may be as simple as a weekly phone call or helping with weekly tasks like gardening or shopping.
Ask an expert
Friends and family can be a great help during difficult times, but it is important to get expert advice. Consider encouraging them to book an appointment with their GP to discuss the feelings they are experiencing. Beyondblue also provides a range of free advice and information to help support your loved one.
Talking about isolation and depression can sometimes be a daunting task for both sides, but starting a conversation can be the first step to better health for your loved one. For more information, contact us
or visit www.beyondblue.org.au