It’s good to talk
GPs are giving too many older people antidepressants when they are struggling with depression, and should prescribe talking therapies far more often, according to research undertaken by University College London.
Family doctors too often avoid talking to patients over the age of 65 about depression and do not have the time to explore and treat the condition properly, the study found.
“There needs to be greater access to talking therapies. They are effective in older populations, but we know that GPs are less likely to refer those in their 80s to psychological therapies for depressive symptoms than those in their 50s and 60s,” said Rachael Frost, the lead author of the research paper.
Older people may be reluctant to access NHS help because they fear they will be stigmatised, or that nothing can be done about their condition anyway, says the report. In addition, GPs often use their appointments to discuss the older person’s physical health, rather than their mental wellbeing, they found. Some fail to act on cues suggesting that over-65s want to talk about how they are feeling.
That is not to say that drugs aren’t helpful. Antidepressants work – but we need to talk too, especially as depression is so common in later life. Almost one in 10 over-75s are thought to suffer from depression, while almost four in 10 (37.4%) exhibit some symptoms. However, the vast majority, 87%, are treated with medication, even though it often does not help, according to the findings.
Even though evidence shows that talking therapies help older people with depression, they are twice as likely as younger people to be treated with antidepressants. NHS Digital figures show that although 1.4 million people of all ages were referred for help to NHS Improving Access to Psychological Therapies (IAPT) in 2017/18, just 91,117 of them (6.3%) were aged over 65. Similarly, while 1 million of all those referred started talking therapies treatment, only 74,503, or 7.4%, of those were over 65.
This is exactly the reason why Age Concern Liverpool & Sefton is opening a new talking therapy\counselling service in May based in Southport. We know from experience that often older people find talking about their concerns and worries with someone who is a trained listener, non-judgemental and who won’t try to offer advice (but instead help the person to find their own solutions) can be a life-saver.
If you want to access the Age Concern Liverpool & Sefton counselling service please call 01704 542 993. If you can’t wait until May, then please do go and see your GP. If that doesn’t help, then call the Samaritans free on 116 123 (they answer the phone 24 hours, 7 days a week) or you can contact the mental health charity Mind by calling 0300 123 3393 or visiting mind.org.uk.