September is National Suicide Prevention Month.  Mental health challenges, like depression, can lead to suicide, especially if left untreated.  According to the 2018 Massachusetts Healthy Aging Data Report, 34.05% of the Boston’s seniors have ever been diagnosed with depression. However, many older adults can experience barriers to accessing treatment, including transportation and stigma.

With support from the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the James and Sarah Dyer Charitable Foundation, Ethos is proud to run the Healthy IDEAS (Identifying Depression, Empowering Ideas for Seniors) Program, which helps seniors experiencing depression set and achieve goals to increase their mood, with the ultimate goal of preventing suicide.  In the Healthy IDEAS Program, Ethos staff and graduate-level student interns provide care to seniors in their own home, helping break down some of the common barriers to access.

Catherine was referred to Healthy IDEAS by her medical social worker.  Catherine expressed feeling helpless, hopeless, and worthless, as well as feeling isolated, disconnected and out of control due to recent physical limitations stemming from severe back problems. Catherine was paired with Brenda Savage, a program intern from UMass Boston who visited Catherine at her home and began to help her to set achievable and meaningful goals.

While they built their therapeutic alliance, Brenda learned that Catherine used to consider herself and an “even-keeled” person, but recently her frustrations were besting her at times.  With guidance from Brenda, Catherine learned to utilize mindfulness techniques to help her mitigate her frustrations.  Further, Brenda and Catherine work together to create a system to manage her many doctor’s appointments.

After working together for 6 months Catherine was attending all of her medical appointments and she reported having regained a sense of control over her body and her health.  Catherine was also consistently using mindfulness techniques which helped her to manage her frustrations.  Catherine felt empowered to continue living her life despite her physical limitations.  At the end of the Healthy IDEAS Program Brenda helped Catherine use a doctor finder service to  identify and begin working with a psychiatrist.

Catherine stated that that Healthy IDEAS helped her to increase her self-awareness and “reconnect” with herself, gain a sense of control, and manage some of the issues that she had found to be overwhelming prior to her time in the program.

For more information on the Healthy IDEAS Program, please contact Claribette Del Rosario, Mental Health Services Program Manager, at or 617-522-6700 x344.