More than 3.5 million older people have mental health problems and yet, according to a new inquiry report, few of them receive the support and treatment they need. Conditions such as depression, dementia and schizophrenia either go undiagnosed or services for them are wholly inadequate. There is clearly a need for better cooperation between health and social care, and for better use of existing resources. As inquiry chair June Crown said, even when older people are offered treatment, they are much more likely than younger people to be given pills instead of counselling or psychotherapy.
But the inquiry also reminds us how ingrained age discrimination still is, when older people themselves succumb to the poor self-image created by the indifference of welfare agencies. It is an indication of the task that confronts the forthcoming Commission for Equality and Human Rights.
This article appeared in the 16 August issue under the headline “Victims of indifference”