After the suicide of an elderly veteran in Bellmore roughly four months ago, Town of Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino and the Long Island Crisis Center announced the launch of a senior crisis hotline. It began operating on Dec. 1, and since then, over 200 calls have been logged.
The hotline launched right around the start of the holiday season — and winter.
According to mental health professionals, during the holidays, the risk of depression and Seasonal Affective Disorder among seniors can increase.
“The holidays can be a tough time and a lonely season for many senior citizens,” said Santino, when the hotline was announced in November. “Fortunately, the LICC and the town’s active senior citizen centers are helping mature people cope with the holiday blues. Call the LICC and visit one of our senior centers, make new friends and know that we are here to offer support and assistance.”
Fran Karliner, the director of development at the Long Island Crisis Center, said that the volume of calls they have taken so far reflects how many seniors are in need of help. “We will be working with the town to see how we can make it more visible,” she added.
According to Linda Leonard, executive director of the Crisis Center, many of the calls have involved family relationships, financial issues and feelings of isolation. She added that certain seniors are calling, not for themselves, but of concern for loved ones who are dealing with their own conflicts.
The Crisis Center has also compiled a list of seniors who have used it before or have been referred to its staff by a relative or loved one. Its counselors have begun making outreach calls to these seniors to check in on their health and happiness.
“We’re trying to let the sandwich generation know about the helpline for their parents,” Karliner said, referring to those who are in between taking care of their own children and becoming caregivers for their parents. Karliner recognized that this might be an overwhelming task and welcomes younger individuals to call in to ask for advice and find resources for their parents.
Despite the increase in seniors showing depressive symptoms during the holidays, Karliner said that she believes the number of calls will remain the same as spring rolls in.
“If you’re a senior citizen who has lost a spouse, that doesn’t change when the seasons do,” she said. According to Mental Health America, symptoms of depression are often unseen and untreated “when they coincide with other medical illnesses or life events that commonly occur as people age” for example, the loss of a relative.
Karliner said that seniors have all called in because they need to talk to someone and counselors at the Long Island Crisis Center have fulfilled that need.
Seniors experiencing loneliness, depression or suicidal thoughts can call the LICC anytime at 516-679-0000.