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PFP study examines loneliness, depressive symptoms to thoughts of self-harm in older adults with serious mental illness

A recent study by Places for People’s Research and Evaluation program examined the relationships of loneliness and depressive symptoms to thoughts of self-harm among older adults living with serious mental illness.

The article, “Direct and indirect associations between loneliness and thoughts of self-harm among a clinical sample of older adults with serious mental illness,” was published in the October 2020 edition of the The Journal of Nervous and Mental Disease. Authors included Nathaniel A. Dell, AM, MSW, LCSW; Jin Huang, Ph.D; Kayla A. Buttafuoco, B.S.; Kristina R. Vidovic, MSW; Allison M. Murphy, MSW, LMSW; and Leon A. Farrar, MSW, LCSW.

Dell, Places for People’s Director of Research and Evaluation, said “the aim of our study was to identify the relationships of loneliness and depression, which are elevated among persons with serious mental illness, to thoughts of self-harm. We found that loneliness was positively related to greater depressive symptoms, which were in turn associated with greater risk of having thoughts of self-harm.”

The findings of the study point to a key takeaway, Dell said.

“Clinicians should work collaboratively with clients to address unmet relationship needs, especially for those who experience depressive symptoms and are at risk for having thoughts of harming oneself.”

Places for People currently has two treatment teams dedicated to serving older adults with serious mental illness. Between 2017-2019, Places for People received funding from Marillac Mission Fund to support the implementation and evaluation of its older adult services. Evaluating programs helps Places for People develop and refine its approach to effectively serving older adults.