Hempstead Town officials are allocating $20,000 for a new 24-hour senior hotline aimed at suicide prevention among the elderly.
The hotline was established days after a Bellmore veteran was found buried in his backyard with a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Town officials said it’s tragedies like these that they hope to address with the new hotline, which can be reached at 516-679-0000.
Hempstead Supervisor Anthony Santino unveiled the hotline and counseling services Wednesday to a room full of seniors at the Bellmore Senior Center, in a partnership with the Long Island Crisis Center
“The holiday season is filled with joy,” Santino said. “We want senior citizens who need help or are suffering from depression to know there is help available to overcome these obstacles. Life is beautiful and you have so much to live for.”
The town is using a $20,000 federal grant to cover the center’s operational costs for the senior hotline. The crisis center will hold 16 seminars to address grief, loneliness and depression during the holiday season. Counselors will visit each of the town’s senior centers to offer services.
The town will also send about 100,000 mailers to seniors to raise awareness of the hotline and include a crisis contact information card.
Seniors 85 and older are the top age group in suicide attempts, according to the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.
Officials said warning signs of potential suicide include isolation, cutting off social events and interactions, making changes in a will and getting affairs in order, stockpiling medication or discussing suicidal intent.
Counselors warn that depression or suicidal thoughts can manifest during the holidays with insomnia and seasonal affective disorder, which is why counselors wanted to be reachable at all hours to discuss concerns.
Center executive director Linda Leonard said one in three seniors older than 65 will experience a crisis and question the meaning of their lives.
“We are a logical fit for this very crucial service. Seniors face many risks and potential crises in their lives,” Leonard said.