Dr Krunoslav Martinac
School of Political and Social Inquiry, Monash University
Project completion year
In 2010 Beyond Blue commenced work on a national awareness campaign targeting older people in light of the high levels of stigma about depression and anxiety known to exist among the demographic. Beyond Blue’s own research into community attitudes towards depression, conducted since 2002, shows that while the general community’s knowledge and awareness about depression and other mental health problems has significantly improved over this time, together with a corresponding decrease in stigma, this is not true for older people.
As a first step towards a national awareness campaign, and to help inform the key messages that should form part of the campaign, Beyond Blue commissioned qualitative research in mid-2010 involving 30 older people (aged 65 and over) from around Australia. The aim of the research was to see how older people experience depression and anxiety and what their experience of help-seeking has been.
This project has produced a valuable qualitative study of a cross-section of older Australians, and their experiences of depression from diagnosis towards recovery, or as carers of people suffering from depression whose treatment and recovery processes they had actively participated in.
Thirty participants from around Australia were interviewed for the project, ranging in age from 56 to 85. The participants’ narratives revealed a broad spectrum of mental health issues, pathways to care, experiences with diagnostic processes and treatment, experiences with their social environments as this related to their depression, as well as strategies for controlling or managing their condition. Participants also reflected on how Beyond Blue could further support older people who experienced episodes of depression and/or anxiety.
Some key themes in the research include:
- main causes of mental health problems: work pressure, unfulfilling relationships, postnatal depression, chronic physical illness, and additional causes
- pathways to care: diagnosis, therapy, experience of treatment
- pathways to recovery: sense of recovery, social reconnection as manifestation of recovery
- role of Beyond Blue: areas of improvement, information dissemination
- some issues identified that are specific to caring for someone experiencing depression.