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James D. Huysman Psy.D., LCSW
James D. Huysman Psy.D., LCSW

Older Adults and Mental Health

New attitudes and age-old stigma

It’s Older Americans Month and the theme this year is Age Out Loud, to give aging a new voice—one that reflects what today’s older adults are saying about a new attitude toward getting older.

This theme shines a light on many important trends. More than ever before, older Americans are working longer, trying new things, and engaging in their communities. They’re taking charge, striving for wellness, focusing on independence, and advocating for themselves and others. What it means to age has changed, and OAM 2017 is a perfect opportunity to recognize and celebrate what getting older looks like today.

Many older Americans have embraced new careers and/or become artists, volunteers, and even avid RVers, traveling around our great country when and wherever they wish!

There’s a new activism afoot as well, a throwback to the takin’ it to the streets era of the 1960’s. Older Americans are making their voices heard and hitting the pavement literally and figuratively. Still more have gotten back to the garden.

Aging for these inspired souls, has broken free of the tired, timeworn, and traditional attributes of what “getting old” really means.

But we’re not all there. Sadly, there are those among us who are suffering from old ideas, anxiety, depression, loneliness, loss and the effects of illness.

It’s also Mental Health Month and still we need to be reminded that mental health is a major component of health and wellness.

Even with the advancements in brain science and statistics that indicate the rise of anxiety and depression, stigma is still alive and well. Taunts of “psycho,” “whackjob,” “you’re nuts,” and “take your meds” are not uncommon from the playground to the retirement home.


Those who suffer from anxiety anticipate disaster and may be overly concerned about money, health, family, work, or other issues. With anxiety declared the #1 diagnosis in the field, statistics show that it's entirely possible for someone with an anxiety disorder to also suffer from depression or vice versa. Nearly one-half of those diagnosed with depression are also diagnosed with an anxiety disorder. Although anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only about one-third of those suffering receive treatment.

Signs of Depression

Here’s what to ask about and watch for:

  1. Little interest or pleasure in doing things
  2. Feeling down, depressed, or hopeless
  3. Trouble falling or staying asleep, or sleeping too much
  4. Feeling tired or having little energy
  5. Poor appetite or overeating
  6. Feeling bad about yourself—or that you are a failure or have let yourself or your family down
  7. Trouble concentrating on things, such as reading the newspaper or watching television

Don’t we owe it to our friends, our families, and most importantly, ourselves to learn to live and age out loud and take our O2 first? Life is not perfect and it’s not fair; those who have truly experienced the ups and downs of life know this…and that life is good (even when it’s bad) and well worth living.

Here’s to both Aging Out Loud and taking care of our physical, emotional, and mental health!

Resources for more information, which have contributed to this article:

About the Author
James D. Huysman Psy.D., LCSW

James D. Huysman, Psy.D., LCSW, is an advocate of integrating behavioral health training into mainstream medicine. He is a certified compassion fatigue therapist who speaks at conferences and with national media.

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