Suicide and Aging: A Gatekeeper’s Workshop


(For resources, this is the publication date. For programs, this is the date posted.)


Samaritans of Merrimack Valley, MA

Training is funded by the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and is available to qualifying institutions in Massachusetts at no charge. Interested parties outside of Massachusetts should contact Mary Quinn for more information

Offered by the Samaritans of Merrimack Valley, MA, Suicide and Aging: A Gatekeeper’s Workshop is a 4-hour gatekeeper training designed to decrease the incidence of suicide in older adults by training caregivers to (1) better understand the difference between normal aging and mental health problems/challenges, (2) identify common myths about aging and suicide, (3) identify suicide risk and protective factors in older adults, and (4) know under what circumstances their supervisor and/or manager should be informed of a possible suicide risk.

The workshop features vignettes, small group exercises, and question and answer sessions to explore ideas and generate comments. The training works best in groups of 5 to 20 and is typically done in one 4-hour session. Training participants receive a binder with a copy of the PowerPoint presentation shown, as well as statistic sheets, reading recommendations and crisis line phone cards.

Suicide and Aging: A Gatekeeper’s Workshop training was adapted from the 8-hour Suicide Prevention Training for Gatekeepers of Older Adults workshop. This 4-hour version has a less clinical focus and is designed for all levels of staff/volunteers, including nurses, social workers, home health aides, personal care attendants, food service workers, transportation workers, and volunteers, helping them learn the risk factors for suicide and encouraging them to reach up/out for assistance rather than engage the older adult directly.

Program Objectives

At the end of training, participants will be able to:

  1. Distinguish between normal aging and mental health issues.
  2. Identify common myths and misperceptions about suicide, mental health, and the aging process.
  3. Identify suicide risk and protective factors in older adults.

Implementation Essentials

  • Participants should be aware of their institution’s protocols and policies regarding the identification and referral of those who may be at risk for suicide.  

2012 NSSP Objectives Addressed: 

Objective 7.1: Provide training on suicide prevention to community groups that have a role in the prevention of suicide and related behaviors.

Objective 7.2: Provide training to mental health and substance abuse providers on the recognition, assessment, and management of at-risk behavior, and the delivery of effective clinical care for people with suicide risk.