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Mental Health & the Elderly: Making Mental Health Referrals

Imagine you are mentoring Sara and Dave, new hires at your community center for aging services. At a recent meeting, Sara mentioned that it is difficult to know when to make a referral for someone to seek mental health services. Dave concurred, saying he was concerned that he might damage the relationship he has with a person if he were to suggest the person needs treatment for mental health services. What advice do you have for Sara and Dave? Be specific.

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Referring someone for mental health services is a touchy subject. One does not want to offend the other person, ignore troubling signs, or misdiagnose symptoms. One of the first things Sara and Dave must remember is the limitation of their training. Just as they would refer physical aliments to a physician, there may be occasions when symptoms and signs are present that indicate a need for professional help. Red flags might include ongoing depression (longer than two weeks), self-harming behavior, panic or anxiety attacks, paranoia, anger, or unresolved grief. Often a client might look to the workers at the community center, like Sara and Dave, for help. In this case, it is easy to refer the case to mental health services. At other times, there are symptoms ...

Solution Summary

This solution explains how to assist community health workers in when to make a referral for someone to seek mental health services. It includes examples and an APA reference.