ROANOKE, Va. (WFXR) — Ashley Judd revealed Thursday that the cause of death for her 76-year-old mother, country music legend Naomi Judd, was a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Now, she says her family is hoping to shine a light on mental illness.
WFXR News’ Rhian Lowndes spoke with a Roanoke clinician about the impact of mental health in the aging community.
According to Harry Mustard a licensed clinical social worker with Psychological Health Roanoke, seniors who were already at risk of mental illness suddenly became much more vulnerable because of the COVID-19 pandemic. He says the distance they’ve had to put between themselves and their loved ones can make poor mental health worse.
“Older people, just by their nature, are more isolated. They don’t go out as much; they’re not as mobile physically, maybe they can’t be; there are more health concerns as we get older; and then with the pandemic and COVID, it’s made them, in a way, much more anxious,” explained Mustard.
He also says mental health is a quiet struggle for the older generation.
“We were brought up with the idea that it’s a source of shame to have any mental problems, especially if you’re a male,” said Mustard.
Friends and family may want to help, which is why Mustard says the biggest thing is to show up and listen.
“As we say, two big ears and one small mouth,” he said.
However, Mustard adds that elderly people are often told what to do, so encouragement will be more effective. For example, you can motivate your loved ones to exercise and express concern about how they’re doing.
“If you have a parent or grandparent who is older, in their 70s or 80s or whatever,” said Mustard, “show up and keep in touch.”
If you or someone you love seems to be in danger, you can call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255.