Extension News

Raise Awareness about Mental Illness


AMES, Iowa -- People of all ages may assume that mental illness is a normal part of aging. But the National Council on Aging and the Older Women’s League want everyone to understand that this assumption is false.


These organizations stress that

*    Mental illness is not a normal part of aging.

*    Mental illnesses are real, common and treatable.

*    The more people know about mental health and aging, the more they can help.

*    Healthy adults continue to learn and grow, enjoy life, and contribute to society.

*    Public policy should promote wellbeing, not discriminate against older adults who have mental health problems.


These organizations and others are raising public awareness about mental illness during May, which is both Mental Health Month and Older Americans’ Month. May 22-28 is Older Americans’ Mental Health Week.


Mental illness among the elderly is routinely under-diagnosed and under-treated, said Colleen Jolly, family life state specialist with Iowa State University Extension. “The Older Women’s League lists statistics that up to 75 percent of depressed older Americans do not receive the treatment they need.”


Jolly added, “Untreated mental health disorders have consequences for both the older adults with the disorders as well as their caregivers.”


According to the Older Women’s League, older adults make more visits to primary care physicians, use more medications and are more likely to be admitted to an emergency room or hospital when common medical problems are accompanied by depression or other mental health problems. Medical treatment outcomes are worse when compounded by mental health problems. For example, rehabilitation from a hip fracture or a heart attack is less successful and more expensive when complicated by depression.


ISU Extension has information and resources dealing with aging at /aging/. ISU Extension also offers Powerful Tools for Caregivers, an educational series designed to provide family caregivers with the tools they need to take care of themselves. To learn more, contact an ISU Extension family life field specialist through any ISU Extension county office. (See / for a list of ISU Extension county offices.)


For more information about Mental Health Week from the Older Women’s League, see http://www.owl-national.org/mentalhealthweek/index.html.



Contacts :

Colleen Jolly, Human Development & Family Studies, (515) 294-4824, cjolly@iastate.edu

Laura Sternweis, Continuing Education and Communication Services, (515) 294-0775, lsternwe@iastate.edu