Learn About Serious Mental Illness (SMI)

What IS a "Serious Mental Illness"?

Mental illnesses are currently diagnosed based on behavior and symptoms; there is currently no chemical test to determine mental illness.  The determination of a mental illness is made based on the diagnostic criteria set forth in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, which is now in its fifth edition (DSM-V).


What is Anosognosia?

Anosognosia is a term used to denote “a complete or partial lack of awareness of different neurological . . . and/or cognitive dysfunctions.” Simply put, people with anosognosia do not believe that there is anything wrong with them. It is not exactly the same as denial of illness, which is a psychological condition. Anosognosia is caused by physical damage to the brain, and is thus anatomical in origin. Approximately 50% of individuals with schizophrenia and 40% of individuals with bipolar disorder are estimated to have anosognosia. It is reported to be the most common reason why individuals with schizophrenia refuse to take medication.

For more information, see the background paper entitled Serious Mental Illness and Anosognosia, published by the Treatment Advocacy Center in 2016.

What happens if SMI goes untreated?

The Treatment Advocacy Center sets this out clearly: