- About 15% of elderly Americans had prescriptions for psychiatric drugs in 2006, double the percentage a decade earlier.
- Adults who say their activities are limited by mental illness were less likely to have contact with a mental health professional in 2006 than in 1996, and the decrease was greatest for the elderly, dropping from 30% to 20%.
- The most seriously ill may be receiving less care from specialists.
- The increase in treatment for children and adults under age 65 has come about through increased diagnosis by primary care doctors.
The article in the USA Today, where this report was highlighted, quotes the author of the study, Richard Frank of Harvard Medical School, as saying "Seniors are most concerning to us. Traditionally, they've been the most under-treated. Now many are getting psychiatric medication, but, among the seriously impaired, access to specialists is dropping."
You know, he may be right. It kills me that it took this study for him to finally realize that even though there are some super specialists in psychiatry at Harvard, the rest of the country is not so lucky. The truth of the matter is that the increased diagnosis and treatment by primary care doctors is probably due to us being forced to learn how to pick up on these problems. The reason we are better at this surveillance is that there are NO psychiatrists readily available outside the big cities, like, say, Boston. There is nothing that warms the cockles of me heart as much as having an elderly patient with an active and severe psychiatric problem who is not dangerous enough to admit, but has to wait 6 months to see a local psychiatrist. Until they get in to see him or her, they are all mine. As the McDonald's commercial says, "I'm Lovin' It!"