Initiative aims to help seniors with depression

NANAIMO – Canadian Coalition for Seniors' Mental Health, Government of Canada and Shoppers Drug Mart teamed up on new resource.

The Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health is teaming up with pharmacists to help battle depression among seniors.

A new initiative to help seniors and their families recognize the signs of depression was launched in Nanaimo Monday by representatives from the coalition, Shoppers Drug Mart and the Canadian government.

The three-way partnership is unique, according to Bonnie Schroeder, executive director of the Canadian Coalition for Seniors’ Mental Health, who says the government contributed $100,000 while Shoppers Drug Mart paid for costs to print and distribute information brochures on suicide and depression. The coalition has also created new, accredited continuing education program for pharmacists on depression and suicide prevention to help equip them to guide seniors or their families toward resources.

Schroeder said a World Health Organization report shows people over the age of 65 account for 14 per cent of Canada’s deaths by suicide, and there’s an increasing prevalence of older adults diagnosed with mood disorders. There’s also ageism around mental decline and mental illness being a normal part of aging.

“We wanted to be able to debunk that myth, so open up the conversation, reduce the stigma and recognize depression is treatable in later life,” she said. “We know that depression is a risk factor for suicide so we want to be able to prevent that.”

It’s the first time the coalition has worked with the private sector. Schroeder said pharmacists have ongoing relationships with their older customers, are a trusted source of information and the partnership allows for a much wider reach than the organization would have on its own.

John Duncan, member of parliament for Vancouver Island North, was at the announcement, with Cathy McLeod, parliamentary secretary to the Federal Minister of Health and member of parliament for Kamloops–Thompson‑Cariboo. A roundtable was also held Monday on the issue of healthy aging.

Shoppers Drug Mart will distribute the new brochures and training modules to stores across Canada. The new information can also be found online at http://goo.gl/p2duzp.