2020: Suicide prevention – Collaborating with older people in independent living units

Suicide prevention – Collaborating with older people in independent living units

Wesley LifeForce

Wesley LifeForce provides suicide prevention services that educate and empower local communities, supporting people most at risk.

Suicide prevention – Collaborating with older people in independent living units reports on the survey component of ‘mixed method action research’ initiated in early 2018. Conducted by the suicide prevention arm of Wesley Mission, Wesley LifeForce with research partners Western Sydney University including key personnel and work placement students, the research involved collaboration with residents, staff and managers from Wesley Retirement Villages.

This high specification social and psychological research reveals key social, psychological and environmental risk factors older people may face as the result of key life transitions. Key life transitions occurring with ageing can include, loss of loved ones, changing life circumstances and diminishing physical or mental health of the self or a loved one.

The research found that people who volunteered were less likely to experience suicidal thoughts and more likely to be more sociable. Being social was also likely to provide protection against loneliness, depression and anxiety. Living on one’s own and feeling confined in one’s unit or being preoccupied with a unit’s floor area, was associated with very strong relationships between loneliness, depression, anxiety and suicidality.

A ‘model of care’ is proposed with a range of practical solutions to help older people meet these challenges and maintain their independence and promote mental health wellbeing. Consultation with residents about the results elicited support for older people in both leadership and supportive volunteering roles. They expressed the desire for their extensive life experiences to be recognised and practically used as a vital source of wisdom.

This published research and further analyses of the dataset behind it will contribute to filling gaps in research, policy and programs to address suicide prevention and community mental health.

As the result of this research, Wesley LifeForce is currently piloting a suite of services within Frank Vickery Village.

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