Study into older people and mental health support

30 June 2015

Researchers at The Australian National University (ANU) are looking for older people with chronic mental illness, and family or friends who support them, to take part in a study to work out if more support services are needed in the Canberra region.

PhD student Sharon Leigh-Hazell wants to speak to people from across the ACT and surrounding areas for her study into services and support for people aged over 60 who have had a mental illness for more than five years.

"We want to find out if the current models of care are meeting the needs of older people living with chronic mental illness," she said.

"If they are not, what other strategies can be put in place for now and in the future?"

Ms Leigh-Hazell has a lived experience as an advocate and support person for her mother who had a long-term mental illness.

A recent study found that around one in four older people had experienced mental illness sometime in their life. Older people with mental health issues are also more likely to have other conditions like diabetes and cardiovascular disease but the quality of care for them is poorer.

The prevalence of mental illness can be higher in residential aged care. A 2012 Australian Institute of Health and Welfare report found around half of the people in residential aged care had at least one mental disorder, excluding cognitive impairment or dementia.

Ms Leigh-Hazell said there has been limited research into care for older people with chronic mental illness, and particularly the link between physical and mental health services and support for older people and carers.

"Despite the high prevalence of mental illness in aged care residents, they are less likely to receive services for their mental illness," she said. "But it is important that older people with chronic mental illness can retain their dignity and independence."

Anyone wishing to take part in the study can contact Sharon Leigh-Hazell on (02) 6125 1624 or email

Thinking about your mental illness or caring for someone with a mental illness can be upsetting. If you need to talk with someone you can contact: Lifeline on 13 11 14 (24 hrs), Carers ACT on 1800 242 636 (9-5), Beyond Blue on 1300 22 4636 (24 hrs), SANE on 1800 187 263 (9-5).