NIH News Advisory
National Institute of Mental Health

Sunday, August 1, 1999

Contact: Constance Burr
(301) 443-4536

Educating Older Americans and Health Professionals about the Risks of Depression:
National Institute of Mental Health and Administration on Aging
Offer Fact Sheet on Older Adults and Depression

The Administration on Aging (AoA) is joining the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH) in a widespread dissemination of its new fact sheet, "Older Adults: Depression and Suicide Facts," on recognizing signs of depression, reducing suicide risk in older adults, and promoting treatment. In cooperation with AoA, NIMH will make information available nationwide on this widely underrecognized and undertreated illness. The fact sheet was unveiled at the first-ever White House Conference on Mental Health on June 7.

Nearly 2 million of the 34 million Americans ages 65 and older suffer from depression, but doctors and patients may have trouble recognizing its signs. To help identify and promote discussion of depression during medical visits, the fact sheet includes a cue card of symptoms for older adults entitled, "Before You Say, Im Fine." It presents questions for older adults to ask themselves, such as if they feel nervous or empty, guilty or worthless, or whether life seems worth living. If their answers indicate that they are depressed, the card suggests talking to a doctor. The fact sheet also cites the role of modern brain imaging technologies, studies of genetics and brain chemistry, and a variety of effective medications and psychotherapies regarding the clinical course and treatment of late-life depression.

On August 1 "Older Adults: Depression and Suicide Facts" will be promoted on the NIMH Website at and on the AoA Website at In addition, AoA, together with its regional offices throughout the country, will promote and disseminate the important information through its national aging network of 57 State Offices on Aging, 655 Area Agencies on Aging, 225 tribal organizations, consumer organizations, and volunteers who work on the front lines with older Americans and their families throughout the country.

The National Institute of Mental Health is a component of the National Institutes of Health, an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.