As the days get longer and the weather gets colder, it is tempting for many of us to stay inside and refrain from engaging in activities. For some people, however, this change in the time of year can lead to Seasonal Affective Disorder, or SAD. In fact, more than 10 million Americans are estimated to suffer from SAD per year, which may include depression-like symptoms such as loss of energy, changes in appetite or sleeping habits, irritability, and a loss of interest in socializing.
While Seasonal Affective Disorder may come and go with the time of year, other mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety can linger in many of us for years, or even for life. This October, as we celebrate Emotional Wellness Month, it is also important to highlight Mental Illness Week, which is October 7-13. Often, emotional wellness can be improved by activities like exercising, journaling, or spending time with family and friends. However, some living with a mental illness may need more significant treatment, including therapy or medication.
As society has become more open to discussing the challenges of mental illness, often, older Americans are not as willing to share their experiences and history of mental health. We also might not have as many facts about the importance of mental health as our younger counterparts, who are more likely to seek treatment if they are struggling. Fortunately, the National Institute of Mental Health has some great resources specifically geared toward educating older adults on mental health issues.
Additionally, individual and group therapy as well as a variety of medications used to treat mental illness are covered by Medicare. The UV light therapy needed to treat SAD is also covered. And, even if you do not need treatment for a mental disorder, Medicare provides resources to educate yourself further about keeping yourself healthy through emotional wellness and mental health care options.
As seniors, it is important that we support each other and lend a hand to family, friends, and neighbors struggling with mental health issues. We often focus on keeping our bodies healthy as we age, but ensuring that our minds are in top shape is just as important. Older Americans must be better about openly discussing these issues, and the pattern starts with all of you this October as we all celebrate Emotional Wellness Month.