Weill Cornell HOPES (Helping Older People with Emotional Support) Project for Puerto Rico
The HOPES project consists of training workshops that address depression and suicidal ideation in middle-aged and older adults. We created this project to benefit Puerto Rico in its recovery process after Hurricane Maria. In February of 2018 we held our first two workshops in Puerto Rico; people from various regions of the island attended and over 300 people were impacted. The first of these workshops consisted of 6 hours of clinical training, where clinicians were trained in identifying the characteristics of late-life depression, the diagnosis and treatment of late life depression, suicide ideation in older adults, cognitive impairment in older adults, and barriers to treatment in older adults. The second workshop was developed for caregivers and the general population. This workshop empowered the participants with tools in understanding depression, identifying depression in middle-aged and older adults, identifying signs and risk factors for both depression and suicidal ideation, understanding cognitive impairment in older adults, and next steps to follow when they suspect a loved one is at risk for depression or suicide.
We had 3 days of workshops; the first two days consisted of the clinical workshop. The last day we held 2 sessions of the caregiver workshop. Based on the feedback received after the sessions, the participants expressed having learned a lot, reported they gained valuable information and expressed enthusiasm to put into practice the techniques and tools gained, and gratefulness for a workshop such as this that focus and direct benefit to the population’s mental health recovery process after Hurricane Maria.
Weill Cornell HOPES Project #2
We returned to Puerto Rico in October 2018 to conduct similar workshops with community leaders and mental health professionals in five different cities on the island. We again conducted workshops about recognizing signs and symptoms of depression and suicidal ideation in older adults, and taught simplified techniques to reduce negative emotion and increase positive emotion in everyday life.
In September 2018, we carried out a series of workshops in Athens, Greece. The goal of these workshops was to provide tools to mental health professionals in a country that is going through a time of economic difficulty, and as a result, has limited mental health resources. The first part of our work consisted of focus groups with psychiatrists and social workers to introduce WellPATH and demonstrate how we can use technology to help patients carry out emotion regulation techniques outside of the therapist’s office. Secondly, we gave presentations at Eginitio Hospital, the hospital affiliated with the Athens Medical School, and at the Greek Psychiatric Association about our research studies (the designs of the studies as well as preliminary findings). Lastly, we led caregiver workshops for the staff (social workers, physical therapists, occupational therapists, etc.) at a senior center in Athens. We talked to them about identifying depression and suicidality in older adults. We also presented emotion regulation techniques that they can use with the elderly in the center to better help them manage their emotions. Our work in Greece was well received and it established a collaboration with Eginitio Hospital.