What is it about?

The term “serious mental illness” (SMI) is used frequently by many stakeholders within research, practice, and policy settings. However, there is no standardized definition and its reliability and validity have not been evaluated. Our study reviewed 788 peer-reviewed research articles published between 2015-2019 to identify how SMI is defined and characterized throughout the scientific literature.

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Why is it important?

Our findings showed that the majority (85%) of research studies reviewed did not provide any definition for SMI. Among studies that did provide SMI definitions, we found substantial variation regarding criteria used and diagnoses included as “SMI.” Our findings suggest the term SMI is currently unreliable and researchers and its use should be more consistently defined or discontinued in the absence of clear definitions.

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This page is a summary of: Reliability of the Term “Serious Mental Illness”: A Systematic Review, Psychiatric Services, July 2022, American Psychiatric Association,
DOI: 10.1176/appi.ps.202100661.
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