Stigma is a complex process that results from the interaction of stereotypes, prejudice, and discrimination. When applied to health conditions (e.g., mental illness, HIV/AIDS, diabetes, obesity), stigma can contribute to a lack of recovery and resources as well as devaluation of the self. People with stigmatized health conditions may be too embarrassed to seek treatment and others may not provide them with equal opportunities. This often results in discrimination in employment, housing, and health care settings. Strategies have been proposed to prompt stigma change with strategic contact between those with the health condition and everyone else likely to have the best effects.
Katherine Nieweglowski and Patrick W. Corrigan
Stephen J. Bright
In the 21st century, we have seen a significant increase in the use of alcohol and other drugs (AODs) among older adults in most first world countries. In addition, people are living longer. Consequently, the number of older adults at risk of experiencing alcohol-related harm and substance use disorders (SUDs) is rising. Between 1992 and 2010, men in the United Kingdom aged 65 years or older had increased their drinking from an average 77.6 grams to 97.6 grams per week. Data from Australia show a 17% increase in risky drinking among those 60–69 between 2007 and 2016. Among Australians aged 60 or older, there was a 280% increase in recent cannabis use from 2001 to 2016. In the United States, rates of older people seeking treatment for cocaine, heroin, and methamphetamine have doubled in the past 10 years. This trend is expected to continue. Despite these alarming statistics, this population has been deemed “hidden,” as older adults often do not present to treatment with the SUD as a primary concern, and many healthcare professionals do not adequately screen for AOD use. With age, changes in physiology impact the way we metabolize alcohol and increase the subjective effects of alcohol. In addition, older adults are prone to increased use of medications and medical comorbidities. As such, drinking patterns that previously would have not been considered hazardous can become dangerous without any increase in alcohol consumption. This highlights the need for age-specific screening of all older patients within all healthcare settings. The etiology of AOD-related issues among older adults can be different from that of younger adults. For example, as a result of issues more common as one ages (e.g., loss and grief, identity crisis, and boredom), there is a distinct cohort of older adults who develop SUDs later in life despite no history of previous problematic AOD use. For some older adults who might have experimented with drugs in their youth, these age-specific issues precipitate the onset of a SUD. Meanwhile, there is a larger cohort of older adults with an extensive history of SUDs. Consequently, assessments need to be tailored to explore the issues that are unique to older adults who use AODs and can inform the development of age-specific formulations and treatment plans. In doing so, individualized treatments can be delivered to meet the needs of older adults. Such treatments must be tailored to address issues associated with aging (e.g., reduced mobility) and may require multidisciplinary input from medical practitioners and occupational therapists.
Kim Van Orden, Caroline Silva, and Yeates Conwell
Suicide in later life is a significant public health problem around the world—a problem that will increase in magnitude in the coming years with the impact of population aging. Adults age 70 and older have higher suicide rates than younger groups worldwide in both lower-income and higher-income countries. While suicide rates tend to increase with age, suicide in later life is not an expected or normative response to stressors that accompany the aging process. Instead, a constellation of risk factors places an older adult at elevated risk for suicide. These factors can be remembered as the Five D’s: psychiatric illness (primarily depression); functional impairment (also called disability, often associated with dependency on others); physical illness (particularly multiple comorbid diseases); social disconnectedness (including social isolation, loneliness, family conflict, and feeling like a burden); and access to lethal (deadly) means. The greatest risk occurs when multiple domains of risk converge in a given individual. Approaches to prevention can address the Five D’s. Given that older adults are reluctant to seek out mental healthcare and that standard primary care practice cannot easily provide it, models of primary care-based integrated care management for mental disorders, including in older adulthood, have been developed, rigorously tested, and widely disseminated. These models play an important role in suicide prevention by integrating treatment for physical and mental illness. Upstream, selective prevention strategies that target disconnectedness—such as engaging older adults as volunteers—may serve to reduce disconnectedness and thereby reduce suicide risk. Universal prevention strategies that involve growing the geriatric workforce may address disability by increasing older adults’ access to medical and social service providers with expertise in improving physical, cognitive, and social functioning, as well as improving quality of life. Addressing ageism and building age-friendly communities that use strategies to integrate older adults into society and promote social participation hold promise as universal prevention strategies. Ultimately, effective suicide prevention strategies for older adults must focus on improving quality of life as well as preventing suicide: strategies such as psychotherapy and medication for psychiatric disorders must be supplemented by prevention strategies for older adults give at all ages in addition to treating psychiatric disorders and suicidal thoughts is needed to address the problem of suicide in later life.
Quincy J. J. Wong, Alison L. Calear, and Helen Christensen
Internet-based cognitive behavioral therapy (ICBT) is the provision of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT) using the Internet as a platform for delivery. The advantage of ICBT is its ability to overcome barriers to treatment associated with traditional face-to-face CBT, such as poor access, remote locations, stigmas around help-seeking, the wish to handle the problem alone, the preference for anonymity, and costs (time and financial). A large number of randomized controlled trials (RCTs) have tested the acceptability, efficacy, and cost-effectiveness of ICBT for anxiety disorders, mood disorders, and associated suicidality. A meta-review was conducted by searching PsycINFO and PubMed for previous systematic reviews and meta-analyses of ICBT programs for anxiety, depression, and suicidality in children, adolescents, and adults. The results of the meta-review indicated that ICBT is effective in the treatment and prevention of mental health problems in adults and the treatment of these problems in youth. Issues of adherence and privacy have been raised. However, the major challenge for ICBT is implementation and uptake in the “real world.” The challenge is to find the best methods to embed, deliver, and implement ICBT routinely in complex health and education environments.
The idea that suppressing an unwanted thought results in an ironic increase in its frequency is accepted as psychological fact. Wegner’s ironic processes model has been applied to understanding the development and persistence of mood, anxiety, and other difficulties. However, results are highly inconsistent and heavily influenced by experimental artifact. There are a substantial number of methodological considerations and issues that may underlie the inconsistent findings in the literature. These include the internal and external validity of the paradigms used to study thought suppression, conceptual issues such as what constitutes a thought, and consideration of participants’ history with and motivation to suppress the target thought. Paradigms that study the products of failed suppression, such as facilitated recall and attentional deployment to thought relevant stimuli may have greater validity. It is argued that a shift from conceptualizing the persistence of unwanted thoughts as products of failed suppression and instead as internal threat stimuli may have merit.