Promoting mental health in rural elders: a pilot program

Maureen Gattuso

    Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

    3 Citations (Scopus)


    Objective: This paper reports on the development and trial of a mental health promotion program for older people in rural north-east Victoria entitled Healthy & Wise. The objective of the program was to increase mental health literacy among older adults referred to Aged Psychiatry who were not diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder but who were experiencing difficulties in dealing with the stresses of later life. A further objective of the program was to assist older adults develop skills in adapting to these stresses. Method: Delivery of the program was in a small-group format. Evaluation utilised both quantitative and qualitative assessment of outcomes. In this report the focus is on assessment based on the Geriatric Depression Scale self-administered to participants before the program began, post program, and at a 6-month follow-up. Results: There was a significant reduction in GDS score over time (pre/post) which was maintained at follow up. The program was successful in attracting participants experiencing a number of risk factors associated with poorer mental health (e.g. chronic illness). Conclusion: Adoption of Healthy & Wise, a trialed and evaluated community mental health program for older adults, could extend the delivery of mental health services in rural areas in an economic and effective way. At a time when smaller rural communities are ageing more rapidly than Australia as a whole, and funding constraints continue, it is recommended as a valuable addition to current programming. Because the study does not include a control group and because participants self selected for the program, generalisation to other populations and settings needs to be cautious. However, because of the success of this trial, it is recommended that the program be tested with other populations. Target groups might include hostel residents and carers of people with dementia.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)76-79
    Number of pages4
    JournalAustralasian Journal on Ageing
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2003


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