Managing Serious Mental Illness

SMI is a smaller and more severe subset of mental illnesses; SMI is defined as one or more mental, behavioral, or emotional disorder(s) resulting in serious functional impairment, which substantially interferes with or limits one or more major life activities (NIMH).  

Serious mental illnesses are brain diseases which include schizophrenia, schizoaffective disorder, and bipolar disorder.  These medical conditions cannot be cured although they can be managed with medication, symptom awareness, and support.  They are chronic illnesses that generally begin in adolescence and may seriously impair an individual’s ability to function typically.

  • At least 8.4 million people in the U.S. provide care to an adult with a mental or emotional health issue.
  • Caregivers of adults with mental or emotional health issues spend an average of 32 hours per week providing unpaid care.


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