Greene County Senior Peer Support group helps detect mental illness

Jessi HawkinsVolunteer Spotlight

By Lexi Spivak, KY3/KSPR News

SPRINGFIELD, Mo. (KY3/KSPR) – The Springfield-Greene County Health Department stated nearly one in every five adults older than 55 years of age will experience a mental health concern. Department representatives have found many senior adults don’t receive the emotional and social support they need. That’s why they created a new Senior Peer Support group.

The Senior Peer Support group bonds seniors through shared experiences and connects them with appropriate mental health resources. Cara Erwin, the Community Wellness Coordinator for the Springfield-Greene County Health Department, said this can be especially important because older adults can easily fall into depression or become suicidal. “It’s because of that isolation because they’re losing loved ones, they’re having those physical issues, there’s a lot of different things that play into it,” said Erwin. “This is one of those goals of the program, is to try and reduce those cases of suicide.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), suicide rates for women are highest for those between the ages of 45 to 64. Suicide rates are highest for men ages 75 and older.

The goal of the Senior Peer Support group is to not only get people the help they need, but also encourage seniors to open up about their feelings. “Gen Xers and Millennials just tell everyone their problems,” began Erwin. “But, for right now, we do have a generation of people who do like to bottle things up.”

Those interested in becoming a Senior Peer Supporter must attend a free, two-day, 12-hour training. Supporters also must be at least 55-years-old. The two-day training includes the Mental Health First Aid course, a national program to teach the skills to respond to the signs of mental illness and substance use. Lived experience (own lived experience or with family and/or friends) and knowledge of mental health are recommended, but not required.

Dates for Senior Peer Supporter Training can be found below:

October 16-17, 2019, 9 am – 4 pm
First Baptist Church
525 South Ave.
Springfield, MO 65806
Activities Building (parking – south side of building)

November 13-14, 2019, 9 am – 4 pm
Springfield-Greene County Botanical Center
2400 S. Scenic
Springfield, MO 65807

January 15-16, 2020, 9 am – 4 pm
The Library Center
4653 S. Campbell Ave.
Springfield, MO 65810

February 19-20, 2020, 9 am – 4 pm
Location: TBD

To register for one of the upcoming training sessions, please complete the information form by following the link included with this story. For any additional questions, contact Julie Viele at 417-864-2077 or [email protected]

This project is funded by the Senior Mental Health Grant through the Community Foundation of the Ozarks.