Improving mental health and lifestyle outcomes in a hospital emergency department based youth violence intervention.


Purpose: Current government policy aims to tackle youth anti-social behaviour and its psychological and social impacts. Given an increased likelihood that young victims of crime are also likely to engage in aggressive or deviant behaviour and to have psychological and social difficulties, interventions are needed which access vulnerable youth with adverse lifestyles to increase well-being and reduce offending. The current project utilised a hospital emergency department (ED) as an appropriate location to identify and interact with youth victims of violent crime; to support key lifestyle risk and mental health difficulties; and build resilience. The purpose of this paper is to use a youth work paradigm, to target vulnerable youth in a health setting at a crisis point where intervention may have a higher chance of uptake. Design/methodology/approach: The study applied a quasi-experimental, longitudinal design. Using the strengths and difficulties questionnaire and the ‘What Do You Think’ component of the ASSET risk assessment, data were collected from 120 youth aged 12-20, at baseline with 66 youth who successfully completed the programme with assessments at baseline and follow-up, at an average of 14 weeks. Findings: There was significant reduction in both psychological problems and lifestyle risk at follow-up. Research limitations/implications: These findings support the government initiative to intervene in youth violence in healthcare settings. Challenges revolve around increasing participation and greater formalisation of the intervention. Originality/value: The youth work led violence intervention in the ED is successfully tackling psychological problems and lifestyle risk following injury.