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The number of people growing older with severe mental illness (SMI) is rising, reflecting societal trends towards an ageing population. Evidence suggests that older people are less likely to seek help, be referred for and receive psychological therapy compared with younger people, but past research has focused on those with mild to moderate mental health needs.
This research aims to identify the specific barriers faced by older people with SMI.
We interviewed 53 participants (22 service users with SMI aged over 50 years, 11 carers of people with SMI, and 20 health care professionals) about their views and experiences of accessing therapy for SMI in later life.
Thematic analysis revealed five themes: organizational and resource issues; myths about therapy and attitudinal barriers; stigma; encouraging access to therapy; and meeting age-specific needs.
Barriers faced by older people with SMI are not only age-related, but also reflect specific issues associated with having a SMI over many years. Improving awareness of the benefits of psychological therapies is important not only for older people with SMI themselves, but also for their carers and staff who work with them.
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