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Research on severe mental illness

Severe mental illness (SMI) affects somewhere between one in one hundred and one in two hundred adults. People with severe mental illness, like schizophrenia, psychosis or bipolar disorder, often experience poorer health and, as a result, die sooner than others. Psychotic illnesses can have a profound effect on people and their families, and appropriate and effective interventions are needed.

Forward Thinking provides an overview of recent published research, funded by the NIHR, on support for people living with SMI. These studies address particular uncertainties and evidence gaps identified by those working in and using these services. It also highlights research currently taking place to inform the support and care of people with severe mental illness.

DOI: 10.3310/themedreview-02628 

Forward thinking front cover

Forward Thinking - NIHR research on support for people with severe mental illness

This review highlights a selection of NIHR-funded research on aspects of severe mental illness such as supporting early detection and intervention, crisis care, supporting recovery and managing physical and mental health.

It features:

  • 30 published studies
  • 19 ongoing research projects
  • Questions to ask about support for people living with SMI


£2 billion

The treatment of people with psychosis costs the NHS around £2 billion a year, over half of which is associated with psychiatric inpatient care.

15 - 20 years

Currently the life expectancy of people with SMI is 15-20 years shorter than that of the general population.


In 2015/2016 a total of 20,151 people in England and Wales, were detained in hospitals under the Mental Health Act.

  • We aim to not only help people with SMI quickly access evidence-based, NICE-concordant mental health care; we also want them to access NICE-concordant physical health care, to secure gainful and meaningful employment and for services across a range of sectors to  work together to help improve their clinical and social outcomes in such a way that they have the same opportunities to live healthy, full and fulfilling lives like anyone else.

    Karen Turner, Director for Mental Health 

    NHS England

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