GIS - 10 October, 2013: Mental health problems among the ageing population constitute a serious issue which needs to be addressed without delay. The number of people in the world and in Mauritius affected by dementia, depression and Alzheimer is on the increase.
The Minister of Health and Quality of Life, Mr Lormus Bundhoo, made this statement this morning at Brown Sequard Mental Health Care Centre while proceeding to the launch of activities in the context of the World Mental Health Day 2013.
In his address, the Minister expressed satisfaction that Government has taken the right policy decisions with regard to the promotion of mental health by raising awareness of the different types of mental illnesses and the provision of relevant treatment in our health institutions. Moreover, in a bid to remove the stigma associated with mental health, psychiatric treatment has been decentralised since 2007 and is now available in all the regional hospitals, he said.
On that score, mental health services have been integrated into the general health care system since 1997 and psychiatrists have been posted in each regional hospital. A Psychiatric Unit is operational at Flacq Hospital. In addition, psychiatric clinics are carried out by Community Physicians in 16 Area Health Centres and psychologists are posted in all the regional hospitals.
Minister Bundhoo pointed out that globally the population is ageing rapidly. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO) between 2000 and 2050, the proportion of the world's older adults is expected to double from about 11% to 22%. In absolute terms, this is a forecasted increase from 605 million to 2 billion people over the age of 60. Older people face special physical and mental health challenges which need to be acknowledged, he said.
In Mauritius, the number of people aged 60 years and above will increase massively by 2030 and as a result of advances in health, economic development and education, they are expected to live an additional 20 years.
“According to WHO, about 20% of people over the age of 55 may suffer from a mental disorder. Thus if go by this trend we will face with a formidable challenge in the coming years as in Mauritius 11.8% of the population is over the age of 60”, said the Minister. He added that despite all the measures taken by government many challenges loom ahead particularly with regard to the incidence of the mental illness among elderly people. According to statistics, 5% of the elderly population may suffer from dementia.
In the wake of this growing concern, the Ministry of Health and Quality of Life jointly with the WHO, has invited Dr J. Hilary Dennis, Specialist Consultant Psychiatrist, to conduct a study on the current status of Alzheimer and dementia in Mauritius with a view to improve the system.
For his part, the Officer in charge at WHO, Dr A. Nundoochand, said that there is a crucial need to invest in old age and mental health. He recalled that the percentage of elderly in Mauritius was 12.2% in 2012 and is expected to increase to 22.7% in 2030. He highlighted that mental health of older adults can be improved through promoting active and healthy ageing. Mental health-specific health promotion for the older adults involves creating living conditions and environments that support wellbeing and allow people to lead healthy and integrated lifestyles. Furthermore, he pointed out that since 2012, the Ministry is implementing the WHO Mental Health Gap Action Programme which is useful in providing good mental health in later life.
World Mental Health Day
The World Mental Health Day, celebrated on 10th of October every year, aims to sensitise the population on the importance of mental health and mental illness. The objective is to raise awareness on the different services provided in this field and at the same time get rid of the taboos attached to mental disorder. This year’s theme is “Mental Health and Older Adults”.
According to WHO, globally over 20% of adults aged 60 and over suffer from a mental or neurological disorder and 6.6% of all disability among people over 60s is attributed to neurological and mental diseases. The most common neuropsychiatric disorders in this age group are dementia and depression. Anxiety disorders affect 3.8% of the elderly population, substance use problems affect almost 1% and around a quarter of deaths from self-harm are among those aged 60 or above. Substance abuse problems among the elderly are often overlooked or misdiagnosed.
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