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Concern for mental health

China Daily | Updated: 2012-10-11 08:13

"Depression, a global crisis" was the theme for this year's World Mental Health Day on Wednesday. This should have been a reminder that more attention and care are needed for the increasing number of mentally challenged people across the country, senior residents in particular.

Concern for the mental health of elderly residents is no small matter. While there are no official statistics about the percentage of elderly residents suffering from depression or other mental health problems, a survey in Beijing found that 4.4 percent of residents aged 65 or over who responded were suffering from depression.

At a news conference on Wednesday, the Ministry of Health said that more than 119 million people in the country are aged 65 or above. By the end of 2013, the number of elderly aged 60 or above is expected to be 200 million, accounting for 16 percent of the population.

With the number of elderly residents rising rapidly and an increasing number of them living alone, there will be more elderly residents challenged by depression or other mental problems.

Rather than staying with their children and grandchildren under the same roof, as was the case in the past, many old couples have to live on their own nowadays, and it is not uncommon for their single children to have difficulty finding the time to squeeze in a visit.

In these circumstances it is all too easy for lonely elderly residents to develop depression, if they have no one to talk to and they do not get the care and attention they need.

Aside from increasing investment in the construction of mental health facilities and the training of more psychiatrists, it is important that we ensure that elderly residents do not become isolated and disengaged from society.

If possible, local communities, neighborhood committees in particular, should organize activities for the elderly and encourage them to participate. Getting senior residents involved in voluntary work, would also give them a sense of achievement and self-worth.

Workable plans for the prevention of depression among them need to be made as early as possible. The earlier this plan is put into practice, the better life will be for senior residents.

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