Free Ashe County class to help prevent suicide among seniors

ASHEVILLE, N.C. – Would you know how to help an older adult struggling with suicidal thoughts? Would you know what signs to look for?

Vaya Health will hold a free class on Thursday, Sept. 5, in West Jefferson that teaches anyone how to help prevent suicide among senior citizens. Vaya’s Geriatric and Adult Mental Health Specialty Team will present “Suicide Indicators, Response and Prevention” from 10 to 11 a.m. at the Ashe County Library, 148 Library Road.

Of the more than 47,000 suicides nationwide in 2017, more than 8,500 involved adults 65 and older, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Men aged 65 and up face the highest risk of suicide, while adults 85 and older are the second most likely age group to die from suicide.

While one in four seniors experiences a mental disorder – including depression, anxiety and dementia – two-thirds of those adults never receive proper treatment, according to the National Council on Aging.

Every year, September is recognized as National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month. All month, mental health advocates, prevention organizations, survivors, allies and community members unite to prevent suicide in people of all ages.

“When people discuss suicide, seniors are often a ‘forgotten group’,” said Rhonda Cox, Vaya’s Chief Population Health Officer. “Older adults often face risk factors for suicide such as isolation and loneliness, the death of loved ones, physical health concerns and loss of independence.

“Depression and suicide among seniors may pose an even bigger challenge in years to come,” Cox said. “The number of seniors in the United States is expected to double in the next 40 years, and by 2060, nearly one in four U.S. residents will be over age 65.”

Some warning signs of suicide may include expressing feelings of hopelessness or being a burden, giving away prized possessions, saying goodbye to people, withdrawing socially, using increased amounts of alcohol or drugs or sleeping too much, or not enough.

The suicide prevention class is open to the general public and may be of particular interest to family caregivers, long-term care staff, community agencies serving seniors and other people who frequently interact with older adults. For more information, contact Julie Dollar at 828-225-2785, ext. 3342, or

If you or someone you know is experiencing a behavioral health crisis or would like more information on treatment options near you, call Vaya’s 24-hour Access to Care Line at 1-800-849-6127. This free service is available to all western North Carolina residents, regardless of age, who want help for mental health concerns, a substance use disorder or a developmental disability.

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