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Make Life Better for Older Adults with Mental Health Challenges

Older Adults experience mental health challenges about the same rate as the general public. According to the Massachusetts Association for Mental Health, one in four older adults has a mental health issue. And just like people of all ages, you can elevate an older person’s quality of life by learning how to listen, encourage and offer support.

Taking time to understand the intricacies will help bridge communication and encourage treatment and recovery, says Robert Wilson, DSL, a Mental Health First Aid (MHFA) National Trainer who is a speaker, coach, teacher and consultant. He says the MHFA community-specific course MHFA for Older Adults is a practical, valuable training for anyone who has older adults in their lives. 

“MHFA for Older Adults helps frame the conversation and interaction that are relevant and pertinent to the older adult population and those who support, care for and serve them,” Dr. Wilson said. “It allows for a more specific and strategic focus to capture the dynamics, challenges and nuances associated with the older adult population.” 

MHFA for Older Adults uses real-world examples to train participants in how to engage with older adults who may have mental health and substance use challenges. It covers the risk and protective factors unique to this community and offers community, regional and national mental health resources for older adults and their caregivers. 

“The stigma of aging, coupled with mental health challenges and cultural considerations, plays an integral role in the recognition of warning signs and symptoms, recovery, support and connection to appropriate professional help,” Wilson said. 

One thing the course stresses is how to have empathy for older adults who are dealing with mental health and substance use challenges.  

“Having learners who are more literate and empathetic of mental illness and who have the skills to help older people can make a tremendous impact on the overall culture and wellness within the community,” he said. “The impact reduces stigma, raises awareness, builds literacy and changes the conversation around mental health for older adults.” 

Get certified in MHFA for Older Adults as a First Aider or an Instructor, and #BeTheDifference to an older adult. Your involvement will help older adults live with support and encouragement.


Mental Health First Aid. (2020). Mental Health First Aid USA. National Council for Behavioral Health d/b/a National Council for Mental Wellbeing. 

Massachusetts Association for Mental Health. (n.d.) Older adult behavioral health. 

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