A fresh campaign has been launched to start conversations about mental health with older people, their families and carers this winter.

Feelings of being low, anxious, stressed and depressed can strike anyone at any age. One in five people over the age of 65 are affected by depression. Yet more than half of those experiencing these symptoms do not seek help, believing they should ‘just get on with it’.

Older people with depression and anxiety usually experience more physical symptoms – such as tiredness, weight loss and problems sleeping, which is why treating mental illness is as important in older people as treating physical illness – and it can be treated just as successfully.

Oxford Health and Age UK Oxfordshire have joined forces to support a national campaign to tackle the issue and encourage more people to access psychological therapies, like the free, confidential NHS service TalkingSpace Plus.

This service, which has assisted more than 100,000 Oxfordshire people since its inception in 2009, helps adults cope with life’s ups and downs, feel better about themselves and learn strategies for keeping well via a range of talking treatments like Cognitive Behaviour Therapy (CBT).

Consultant Psychologist Jo Ryder, clinical lead for TalkingSpace Plus (TSP), said: “Many older people may take the view that feeling low, anxious or depressed is a normal part of aging, however it isn’t and should be seen like any physical illness that deserves the correct treatment, which includes Talking Therapies.  There is also strong evidence that improving mental wellbeing can also improve physical wellbeing.

“So, if you are an older person, or a relative of a carer for someone who is feeling low, anxious or depressed, there is help and support available. Make contact with us or ask your GP to refer you to us.”

Part of the campaign centres on raising awareness with GPs of psychological therapy services like TSP. Although they are treating more older people, evidence suggests that this age group’s access to talking therapy is not progressing fast enough.

Letters are being sent to all surgeries in the county inviting clinicians to talk to patients about depression and anxiety, increase referrals and to not offer medication as a first line treatment option.  Research shows that older people were six times more likely to be on medication to treat their mental or emotional problem compared to other age groups.

Penny Thewlis, chief executive of Age UK Oxfordshire, said: “Depression and anxiety in later life, especially over the age of 65, are often dismissed as a normal part of ageing.

“It isn’t normal. We want every older person to be able to enjoy later life. No one should feel they just have to get on with it. Isolation and loneliness can be factors in poor mental health and we also know from research that if someone has long term physical health conditions, like heart disease or diabetes, that is likely to trigger or exacerbate depression, impacting further on their quality of life and life expectancy.

“Our message is, if you are feeling low or anxious, please talk to someone about it and seek help. TalkingSpace Plus and Age UK Oxfordshire can offer lots of support, advice and information.”

The campaign reinforces the Oxfordshire’s health and social care system’s action plan to Help Us Help You this winter.

Oxford Health is working in partnership with Oxford University Hospitals Trust, Oxfordshire County Council, Oxfordshire Clinical Commissioning Group and South Central Ambulance Service to help people take better care of the physical and mental health, by promoting self-care and having a winter plan to help you prevent your condition from getting worse.

TalkingSpace Plus

TalkingSpace Plus has dedicated specialist staff who are trained to understand the specific needs or health issues associated with low mood and emotional difficulties, offering a range of evidence based talking therapies and wellbeing activities that work

You don’t need a referral from your GP you can self-refer to find more visit our website www.talkingspaceplus.org.uk  or call   01865 901 222. Opening hours are: Monday 8am-5pm, Tuesday to Thursday 8am-8pm or Friday 8am-5pm

If you would like to self-refer by phone, you will speak to an administrator who will take your details (including your name, address, date of birth, registered GP) and book a telephone appointment with a member of our team.

More information is available our website www.talkingspaceplus.org.uk, where you will find a self-referral form as well as a range of helpful resources

Age UK Oxfordshire

A local independent charity working in the community to support older people, their families and carers. It has 180 dedicated staff and over 500 volunteers helping deliver services and activities for older people in Oxfordshire.

It provides a wealth of free information and advice, home support services, volunteer phone befrienders and a range of exercise classes, activities and social events. It has also just published a guide Staying Well This Winter https://www.ageuk.org.uk/oxfordshire/about-us/news/staying-well-this-winter/

For more information call 0345 450 1276 or visit its website www.ageuk.org.uk/oxfordshire/