older psychiatryPeople aged over 65 in Scotland are less likely to receive support for their mental health issues, a project has found.

The Age in Mind project looked at how people aged over 50 are affected by mental health stigma and discrimination. It found that the support people received for their mental health can decrease once they reach 65. Participants in the project say they have less access to psychiatrists and specialist nurses, and worry about losing places at mental health support services.

Respondents also said the chance of being referred for psychological therapies decreases, and for those who develop their condition after the age of 65, benefits designed to compensate for the additional costs relating to living with a disabling condition can also be denied. 

Age in Mind is led by the Scottish Mental Health Co-op (SMHC), and is part of See Me's programme of work aimed at ending mental health stigma and discrimination. 

More than 160 people with lived experience of mental health problems, and some 50 organisations that support people with mental ill health took part in focus groups, interviews and questionnaires to establish what discrimination people have faced, and where work needs to be done.

Dianna Manson, 68, from Edinburgh, who trained as a doctor but was never allowed to practice due to her schizophrenia diagnosis, said: “If you’re older and have a mental health problem you are not seen as a priority by the system.”

Michel Syrett, chair of the Project Management group, and a member of the local networks that are seeking change, said: “People have the same mental health treatment needs the day after their 65th birthday as the day before.

“They have spent their lives contributing to society and it therefore unjust that they face discrimination in the services they are offered and are at a financial disadvantage in terms of the benefits they are eligible for.

"With significant public policy attention rightly being now focused on the needs of young people with mental health problems, we need to highlight the fact that people over 65 are equally deserving of parliamentary consideration.

“We hope that the reception will bring this issue firmly into MSPs' line of sight.’’              

David Delaney, chair of the SMHC, said: “We can see the impact that mental health stigma and discrimination can have over many decades on people’s self-esteem.  We need to learn from their experiences so that we do not replicate them, but rather show ourselves to be a caring and understanding society and relegate stigma and discrimination to the past.”

See Me director, Calum Irving, said: “People experiencing mental health problems need help and support quickly, no matter what their age their mental health should be taken seriously. People should be assessed on their needs, not on their age.”