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New report underscores importance of senior mental health

Posted at 6:51 AM, Jul 20, 2021
and last updated 2021-07-20 10:44:04-04

FORT MYERS, Fla — A new report shows seniors in our state are experiencing increasing mental and behavioral health challenges, and that's been the case since before the pandemic.

One of the most troubling stats is on senior suicide.

Dr. Marigene Hartker with UnitedHealthcare said there are a number of things factoring into this.

The number one way we can all help is through awareness of the issues. Especially surrounding our state's ranking for people 65 and older who are taking their own lives.

According to the America's Health Ranking 2021 Senior Report, that age group is having an even tougher time than our state's population as a whole.

"From our zero to death population, we rank 25, we're right in the middle. But for our seniors, that population subset of 65 and older, we rank 38. So our seniors are committing more suicide than the average," said Dr. Hartker.

Things like isolation are factoring into this. It's a relatively new and increased stressor for seniors.

But even before the pandemic, one of the main factors has been that Florida has a lot of chronic disease patients. Experts say this goes hand-in-hand with mental health distress. And the bigger problem is that the state doesn't have nearly enough geriatricians to meet that demand.

To read the full report, click here.