Author ORCID Identifier

https://orcid.org/0000-0001-8755-3772

Date of Award

5-14-2021

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Department

Counseling and Psychological Services

First Advisor

Laura R. Shannonhouse

Second Advisor

Dennis Gilbride

Third Advisor

Matthew Fullen

Fourth Advisor

Chivon Mingo

Fifth Advisor

Casey Barrio Minton

Abstract

The population of older adults (65+) is increasing, and this growth is accompanied by increased mental health concerns such as social isolation and suicide, which are argued to be exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic. In chapter 1, I sought to discover if Aging Service Network (ASN) volunteers obtain and utilize suicide-intervention skills with older adults after receiving a 14-hour evidenced based training and identify characteristics of volunteers who perform suicide interventions as a result of being trained. In chapter 2, I sought to identify baseline relationships among suicide desire, chronic pain, social connections, perceived social support, loneliness, and depression among older adults who receive home-delivered meals in six metro-Atlanta counties. From this, I determined how chronic pain, depression, perceived social support, and loneliness may predict suicide desire among older adults in the sample. Further, I developed a social connections survey to determine if specific types and manner of social connections may yield insight to understanding loneliness, perceived social support, and suicide desire among older adults during COVID-19. Based on results from the analysis on social connections, I identified which older adults in this sample may be most at risk of suicide based on predictors that have been found to be part of a causal pathway to suicide grounded in Joiner’s Interpersonal Theory of Suicide. Implications for how the ASN may optimize the selection and training of volunteers is presented, along with potential ways to screen for older adult clients at risk of suicide. This may enable intentional matching of those trained volunteers with older adults at risk. Implications for future research is provided.

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