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Depression-There's help at hand!!

Are you overly stressing out about the ups and downs of the stock market and its immediate impact on your retirement "nest-egg" - is it disappearing? is there enough to last? - or are you depressed about your newfound retirement "freedom", not knowing what to do with yourself or how to "get your rhythm" - BE CAREFUL, as you could be spiralling downward into clinical depression or anxiety - two related but subtlely different illnesses afflicting our modern society. BUT DON'T DISPAIR, if you can confront it then there is help at hand.

Today on Statewide Afternoons with Chris Coleman (ABC NSW Radio), Chris did a very insightful and compelling talkback segment on Mental Health, focusing on the "toolbox" of things people can do to combat it, including the all important aspects of professional help and treatments available. Mental Health is broad and complex issue which effects a large part of the global community - bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, anxiety, dementia are all included. And the most sinister consequence of mental illness is SUICIDE - the ultimate declaration of a person who has suffered in silence, did not call out for help or whose symptoms went undetected by others - regardless, the result is the same and another life is needlessly lost - dare I say, wasted! But it was the very positive messages coming from Chris' sensitive and thorough expose today that has inspired me to blog an article on how this impacts on older people - the retirees of the community - who can so easily and unwittingly fall into the mental health mire!

Mental illness is largely indiscriminate - not reserved for any one particular demographic, gender or race - and the incidence of young people institutionalised for treatment is truly frightening. But for most of us who have come through our younger years unscathed, the prospect of falling into the mental health "trap" in our retirement years is flippantly dismissed as really remote, if not nigh impossible - hence the "trap"! The reality is however that as much as 10% of older people (over 65) will suffer with depression and 15% with anxiety but it needs to pointed out that these illnesses are triggered by some event and are not part of the natural aging process. Moreover, in this age demographic there is still very much a perceived "stigma" attaching to these conditions and so often they can go undetected, whereas if acknowledged and help duly sought, they are fully treatable. Alternatively, the consequence of their going undetected and untreated can be dire! And it seems that retired men are more at risk than retired women. Whereas women seem to embrace their senior years as a time for new beginnings - the opportunity to try and do new things - men, on the other-hand, their career "infrastructure" - be it the camaraderie of workmates, the sense of self- worth or the perceived importance of career status - stripped away, are in some cases somewhat lost and sometimes struggle to engage in leisure or more altruistic pursuits. And without a regular pay packet any longer by which to measure their self-worth and the excessive and needless worrying over things beyond their immediate control, only further exacerbate the problem.

But it is the need to shed this ill-gotten sense of stigma that is key to recovery - there is no stigma, depression

or anxiety are not weaknesses of character and with the right treatment, most people recover. Your first step is to recognise the symptoms: of the many websites now available focussing on this very real and immediate issue, I found beyondblue particularly helpful, especially as it relates to us oldies. The following link is where you need to go if you want to read more about the symptoms, what to look for and what to do to get help, whether for yourself, a dear friend or loved one!

As you read this excellent information source, you will quickly realise that this is no secretive or obscure issue and there is no stigma - it is a well researched subject and there are trained professionals who can readily help you. Nor is it purely a disorder of the mind, as it can physically effect you equally dramatically - becoming quickly debilitating.

Another very visible and effective website promoting awareness of and de-stigmatizing mental health issues is Sane Australia at - be sure to spend some time here too!

Chris' radio segment included a interview with local expert and Sane Australia CEO, Jack Health, who spoke frankly on the issue, "painting the landscape" on mental health and providing a range of avenues for help, all of which was exceptionally informative and useful, but I was particularly encouraged by the interested listeners who phoned in to share their experiences and what had helped them as contributions to the mental health "toolbox". The following link to the blog of yesterday's program allows you to listen to Chris' interview and also a number of the ever so interesting anecdotal talk-back conversations - I encourage you to take the time, as I know you will find both of these audio replays truly enlightening and instructive -

I do hope you find it useful! And here are some suggestions, some from the program and some from us here at RetirementLIFE (be sure to check out our "Wellbeing" blog category) for your retirement "toolbox" to keep you mentally healthy:

  • Travel - whether a road trip at home or overseas - travel to new places, see new things, meet new people

  • Get a dog or any pet which gives you a "raison d'etre" and unconditional love

  • Volunteer some time to charity work - by helping others, you will instantly lift your self-worth and feel good

  • Join a community group (be it your local church, bowling club or Rotary, Probis or Chamber of Commerce)- it is crucial to your staying connected!

  • Take some ME time to recharge and re-motivate yourself

  • Share special events with your partner or a dear friend - share the joy!

  • Join your local Mens Shed

  • Get a hobby - restore an old car, learn to paint, cook, play a musical instrument or a foreign language; listen to music, go to the theatre, play chess, read avidly

  • Exercise - walk, ride a bike daily, play golf or tennis

Many of these things we have previously and continue to write about as helpful tools to motivate or even inspire you. The big secret is to stay active and occupied - it will take you mind of things that would otherwise worry you and it will relax or de-stress you!

...and remember...have a fabulous retirementLIFE....

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