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Baycrest launches mental health website for seniors with depression
April 07, 2014

Toronto, Canada – Three years ago Evelyn Burns-Weinrib attempted suicide. She was 78 years old. With treatment and counselling at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto, Evelyn has made great strides in her recovery and is fully engaged in life again.

Now she is sharing her story publicly to encourage other seniors suffering from depression to seek professional help as soon as possible. She has also put money behind a new mental health website for seniors, launched today and created by the Centre for Mental Health at Baycrest. The website offers information and encouragement to seniors and families affected by late-life depression.

As an older adult who has experienced depression, Evelyn is far from alone. In Canada, adults 65-and-older have the highest suicide rate of any age group, according to the Canadian Mental Health Association.

“I think that this is something that should be talked about, not brushed under the carpet. I will talk about it whenever and wherever I can,” said Evelyn. “When you get older, you face a lot of losses – the loss of your job due to forced retirement or it just disappears, the loss of family members and friends. You lose your physical health, have less money to live on, and you become more dependent on others. I’ve learned that these are all factors that can trigger depression in seniors.”

Watch Evelyn’s  compelling interview with reporter Avery Haines of CityNews “The Inside Story” – http://bit.ly/1lQy9N9

The website addresses all of these topics and more. Created by Baycrest’s chief of Psychiatry, Dr. Robert Madan, it’s both a multi-media resource and a wellspring of hope. “This website helps visitors understand late-life depression in a way that is friendly, empowering and positive,” said Dr. Madan. “Depression is not a normal part of aging that’s just supposed to be expected and endured.”

An important message is reinforced throughout the site: anyone experiencing symptoms of depression needs to reach out and ask for help. With help comes hope and recovery.

Visitors can read information about warning signs of depression, treatment options, depression in long-term care, and learn the difference between healthy grieving and signs of grief that may be complicated by depression. Each topic module includes video vignettes in which Baycrest experts in geriatric mental health deliver information in a style that is personable and consumer-friendly.

An important goal with the site is to break down the twin barriers of fear and stigma related to mental health issues that often prevent people from talking to a healthcare professional. “Many older adults have grown up with the idea that depression is something you can’t talk about openly because it’s perceived as a personal failing or a weakness,” said Dr. Madan, who is also an assistant professor of Geriatric Psychiatry at the University of Toronto. “This website helps older adults understand that depression is a treatable medical illness, just like diabetes or heart disease.”

In addition to helping seniors and families, Dr. Madan says the site will be a resource for health professionals to refer their older patients to for information about mental health disorders. “We know that so many people are looking for medical information online now. It’s my hope that individuals with late-life depression can find this site and understand that they can get help and get better,” he said.

In addition to the private donation from Evelyn, the site has received funding from the AFP Innovation Fund and the Geoffrey H. Wood Foundation. Over the next few years, Dr. Madan plans to expand the site to include information modules on other geriatric mental health topics such as anxiety, bipolar disorder, and dementia.

About Baycrest Health Sciences
Headquartered on a 22-acre campus and fully affiliated with the University of Toronto, Baycrest is unique in the world, combining a comprehensive system of care for aging adults, one of the world’s top research institutes in cognitive neuroscience (the Rotman Research Institute), dedicated centres focused on mitigating the impact of age-related illness and impairment, and unmatched global knowledge exchange and commercialization capacity. www.baycrest.org

 

For more information about this press release, please contact:
Steph Parrott
Public Affairs Specialist
Baycrest Health Sciences
416-785-2500 ext. 5724
sparrott@baycrest.org

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