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Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration Department of Health and Human Services

Substance Abuse & Mental Health Services Administration Center for Mental Health Services

Last Updated: 6/22/2012

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SAMHSA’s Resource Center to Promote Acceptance,
Dignity and Social Inclusion Associated with
Mental Health (ADS Center)

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Older Adults

Older adults tend to under-use mental health services for a variety of reasons, including social stigma, ageism, transportation problems, costs, and misconceptions about aging and mental health.1 Beliefs that mental health disorders and treatment are shameful, represent a personal failure, or will lead to a loss of autonomy, lead many of those in need to deny having a mental health problem, or to refuse treatment from a mental health provider.2 Although adults 60 years of age and older constitute 13 percent of the United States population, their use of inpatient and outpatient mental health services falls far below expectations.3

Recognizing and treating mental illnesses among older adults is important. The rate of suicide among older adults is higher than that for any other age group - and the suicide rate for persons 85 years and older is the highest of all: twice the overall national rate.

Reducing the negative attitudes associated with mental illness among older people can help save lives, help more older people lead fuller lives, and is particularly important in healthcare settings, senior centers and nursing homes, and families.

1 Mental Health Association of Southeastern Pennsylvania. (October 1999.) The Advocate.
2 Administration on Aging, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.
3 Trudy Persky, Trudy. Mental Health and Aging, last referenced 6/25/07.

This Web site was developed under contract with the Office of Consumer Affairs in SAMHSA’s Center for Mental Health Services. The views, opinions, and content provided on this Web site do not necessarily reflect the views, opinions, or policies of SAMHSA or HHS. The resources listed in this Web site are not all-inclusive and inclusion on this Web site does not constitute an endorsement by SAMHSA or HHS.