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New Hanover County offering free mental health support for older adults

Free mental health services for older adults in New Hanover county.
Published: Jan. 19, 2022 at 8:16 AM EST
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NEW HANOVER COUNTY, N.C. (WECT) - More than two years into this pandemic and there is no question that it has had a major effect on our lives.

Whether it be the social isolation, daily routine changes or just the uncertainty of it all — research shows that there has been an increase in the number of adults who are experiencing stress, anxiety or depression because of the ongoing covid-19 pandemic.

To address this concerning trend, New Hanover County is offering mental health services to older adults who may be struggling.

It’s free and available for any New Hanover County resident over the age of 55 as well as caregivers.

Even before the pandemic, there was a need for more mental health resources for older adults not only in New Hanover County, but in communities across Southeastern North Carolina.

“It’s estimated that about 20% of older adults do have some form of mental health episode,” said Amber Smith, director of the New Hanover County Senior Resource Center.

As part of the county’s five-year Master Aging Plan, the Senior Resource Center launched a survey for residents to express concerns and provide input on what senior resources were needed.

One thing seemed to come up a lot:

“There was a big need in terms of mental health for older adults,” said social work supervisor Andrew Zeldin.

And covid-19 has led to challenges and changes that have only amplified that need.

“They were no longer able to see their family face-to-face. They weren’t really able to see their friends or be able to go to the senior resource center to be able to participate in in-person group activities,” Smith said.

The center has hired two licensed clinical therapists using American Rescue Plan Funds to provide free mental health support for those who might be struggling.

The therapists will hold group sessions, “where we’re able to connect individuals with each other,” Smith said.

And they will even see people for one-on-one sessions.

“Actually going into homes of older adults who may not be willing to leave their home or maybe they’re home bound,” Zeldin said.

One clinical therapist started in October and the other started in December. Smith said that the feedback so far has been very positive.

“The overall feedback is a sense of relief. There’s always challenges with trying to find a therapist who is more geared of working specifically with the older adult populations,” Smith said. “Whatever those challenges may be with that population, so I think a sense a relief that that service is available here for them to meet with — that there’s no cost for that individual for the service.”

However, pandemic or not, Smith said it’s important to reach out for help.

“For older adults most people think: ‘oh well you’re aging, that’s just a normal part of the aging process is depression and anxiety,’ and it’s important for people to know that that is not a normal part.”

Smith said if you or a loved one is experiencing any type of depression or anxiety, reach out to someone whether that be the Senior Resource Center or another resource they can connect you with.

Any resident 55 or older or any caregiver wanting to participate in group sessions or a one-on-one session can call the Senior Resource Center at 910-798-6400.

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