HelpAge International through Age Demands Actions (ADA) platform has urged Malawians to join hands in ending depression among older people in the country.
ADA which is a global platform for older people has campaigners in the country who joined thousands of people on World Health Day that falls on 7th April, to make sure that voices of older people are heard and to encourage them to talk about depression.
On World Health Day hundreds of older people take action to raise awareness about health issues affecting them and how government can make changes.
In his remarks, Health and Care Advisor at HelpAge International Rachel Albone said depression can affect people of all ages in life, but globally prevalence rates peak in older age between 55 and 74.
“Despite this, older people often struggle to access vital services and support. There are plenty of actions governments can take to tackle depression in older age,” Albone said.
“They can ensure access to treatment and support such as counselling, address income through social pensions and facilitate older people inclusion in the society,” she added.
Another official from HelpAge International Kate Wedgwood said it is important for older men and women to know the mental health and emotional wellbeing are as important in older age as at any other time in life.
“Building on the momentum to tackle ageism by campaigners last year, we are encouraging older people to challenge ageism within health sector too. This is crucial in ensuring increased access to health services for older people, including depression and treatment,” she said.
As a way of making this happen in the country, Ministry of Health has embarked on an approach to funding community mental health and hope to see reduced treatment gap among youth and older people in the country through provision of effective and low cost community based mental health.
A 60 year-old Mrs Moyo narrated how depression affected her when her son became depressed.
“My son was a truck driver but suffered depression. People in the village, including young children started making fun of him and would shout at him as a mad person every time they should spot him. So both he and I became more depressed. Stigma around depression only makes things bad,” Mrs Moyo said.
Multiple social, psychological, and biological factors determine a person’s mental health but the circumstances older people face mean they are more likely to experience isolation, loss of independence and loneliness.
ADA is a campaigning platform for older people that helps to challenge assumptions and prejudices and supports campaigners to push for policy changes to better improve their lives.
Globally, an estimated 350 million people of all ages suffer from depression and 7 percent of older people are affected.