Greene County Senior Peer Support Program aims to improve mental health of older adults

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Retirement is known as the Golden Years, but for many seniors, growing older is a real challenge. About 1 in 5 adults over 55 years of age experience a mental health concern and many of these adults do not receive the emotional and social support they need. Many seniors become socially isolated and don’t know where to turn for help. A new program in Greene County aims to change that.

The focus of the Greene County Senior Peer Support Program is to improve the mental health of older adults. Senior volunteers are trained to recognize potential mental health problems, offer support, connect with other seniors through shared experience, and provide appropriate mental health resources and care.

NAMI Southwest Missouri and partners received the Community Foundation of the Ozarks’ Senior Mental Health grant to fund the program. The goal is to certify 100 senior peer supporters with the hope of helping senior fulfill their Golden Years through one-on-one support and referrals to appropriate help and support.

Seniors interested in becoming a senior peer supporters must attend a free two-day, 12-hour training and 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.

Partners include Missouri State University, Psychology Department, Gerontology Program, Community Partnership of the Ozarks, Springfield-Greene County Health Department, SeniorAge, and Give 5. The program will focus on recruiting senior peer supporters in areas throughout Springfield that have a high proportion of senior adults with poor mental health.

If you are interested in becoming a senior peer supporter, please visit http://bit.ly/seniorpeersupport. Training sessions will be held in October and November and in January and February 2020. Questions? Please call Dr. Lisa Hall at 417-836-6943 or email Julie Viele at jviele@springfieldmo.gov.

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