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Improving mental health for older victims of crime

Psychiatric researchers at UCL are working with the Metropolitan Police and local branches of mental health charity Mind, to trial a new intervention aimed at reducing the distressing psychological outcomes, known to be prevalent among older victims of crime.

Early results from the study, funded by the National Institute for Health Research (NIHR), suggest that close to one in five older victims of crime continue to experience distress three months after the incident, with continued depressive or anxiety symptoms. Officers from the Metropolitan Police’s Safer Neighbourhoods Teams are now meeting victims over 65 years of age who have been a victim of a crime, across nine London boroughs, within one month of the crime to screen them for significant distress.

If people are identified as significantly affected by the crime, officers will provide them with information about how to seek help, such as advising a GP visit. Three months later, a UCL researcher will contact them to see what type of help they have sought, and to assess whether their psychological distress has subsided or persisted.

Those who continue to experience psychological distress are invited to participate in the randomised controlled trial. Participants either receive usual care (mainly GP support), or usual care plus the Victim Improvement Package designed for the study, which consists of up to ten sessions of talking therapy using a newly designed cognitive behavioural approach, provided by a therapist from local Minds across London over three months.

So far over 2,900 older victims of crime have been visited by the Safer Neighbourhood Teams, more than 1,100 have been identified as being significantly affected at the time of the crime and over half of these continue to be distressed. 86 people have begun the trial. If the trial proves to be successful, the project leads plan to a national rollout of the programme.