NEW YORK CITY – January 20, 2006 – To address high rates of depression in older New Yorkers, free depression screenings in English and Spanish - as well as referrals - for Bronx seniors will begin this month. Depression among older people (age 65+) is often masked by complaints of physical problems, or disturbances in sleep or appetite. Additionally, medical problems and depression feed into one another, leaving depression not properly diagnosed or treated in many seniors. The initiative is being piloted by the City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene (DOHMH), the City Department for the Aging (DFTA), and the Mental Health Association of New York City (MHANYC).
Beginning this month, DFTA senior centers in the Fordham, Hunts Point, Longwood, Mount Hope and University Heights sections of the Bronx will offer free depression screenings for older New Yorkers. Senior Centers offering the screenings will include:
- East Concourse Senior Center
- CAB Morris Senior Center
- Heights Center for Senior Citizens
- Pio Mendez
- Sebco Senior Programs
As part of this new pilot initiative, free depression screenings will also be offered to homebound seniors in the South Bronx. DOHMH will provide assistance to primary care practitioners in these Bronx neighborhoods to ensure they are prepared to diagnose and manage depression; referrals will be made to primary care doctors and mental health professionals for further evaluation and treatment for those who need it. The initiative will also:
- Educate seniors about depression to reduce the stigma associated with this mental health condition
- Identify through screening seniors who may be depressed;
- Refer seniors who screen positive for depression to their health care providers for further evaluation and treatment;
- Follow-up with seniors who screen positive to ensure they are accessing care.
Lloyd I. Sederer, MD, DOHMH's Executive Deputy Commissioner for Mental Hygiene Services, said, "Depression is a serious and under-diagnosed condition in New York City, especially in seniors. Nearly 400,000 New Yorkers suffer from significant emotional distress, a great portion of whom are over the age of 65. Through this initiative, we want older New Yorkers and their families to recognize the symptoms of depression and to get the help they need."
Department for the Aging Commissioner, Edwin Méndez-Santiago, LCSW, said, "Depression in older persons is closely associated with physical illness, social isolation, bereavement, and dependency. It not only causes suffering for individuals, caregivers, and families, it can result in suicide as well. This comprehensive culturally competent initiative will identify seniors at risk and get them the treatment they need."
Giselle Stolper, Executive Director of the Mental Health Association of New York City, which will administer the screening program, said, "Addressing the mental health needs of our senior citizens will become increasingly important as the number of older adults doubles in the next 25 years. The MHA of NYC is dedicated to improving services to this population, and we are very pleased to partner with DOHMH and DFTA on such an important initiative. This depression screening program is a significant step toward helping New Yorkers - especially those with limited access to quality mental health care - live longer and feel healthier."
"Get Help for Depression" - a Take Care New York Priority
Take Care New York, the City's health policy, prioritizes the top ten things all New Yorkers can do to be healthier, including "Get Help for Depression." Undetected and untreated depression results in unnecessary individual suffering, family and community burden, and increases the use of health care services. Depression also impacts negatively on many medical conditions, such as diabetes, heart disease and arthritis, worsening them making those conditions less responsive to treatment. Additionally, untreated depression can tragically lead to disability and suicide.
The Mental Health Association of New York City operates LIFENET under a contract with DOHMH, which provides counseling and referral services, and is available in English 1-800-LIFENET (1-800-543-3638), Spanish (1-877-AYUDESE; 1-877-298-3373), and Chinese (1-877-990-8585). For other languages, New Yorkers can call LIFENET and ask for a translator. The TTY number for LIFENET is (212) 982-5284.
To find out more about getting screened for depression, call 311 and ask for LIFENET.