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‘Severe mental illness’: Uses of this term in physical health support policy, primary care practice, and academic discourses in the United Kingdom

Lookup NU author(s): Dr Ilaria PinaORCiD, Professor Emily OliverORCiD



This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International License (CC BY-NC 4.0).


© 2024 The AuthorsThe term severe mental illness (SMI) is often used in academic work, primary care practice, and policy, acknowledging the health disparities experienced by, and need for improved support for, this population. However, here we draw from the varied experiences of our authorship team to reflect on some problematic operationalisations of the term SMI and its usage, specifically in policy, primary care practice, and academic discourses in England and the UK. Benefits of the SMI label in accessing specialised services are evident but, in this commentary, we start a discussion on its necessity and unintended consequences for wider health support. We focus on physical health support specifically. We hope that this commentary encourages dialogue among practitioners, researchers, stakeholders and commissioners concerning wider uses of the term SMI.

Publication metadata

Author(s): Pina I, Gilfellon L, Webster S, Henderson EJ, Oliver EJ

Publication type: Article

Publication status: Published

Journal: SSM - Mental Health

Year: 2024

Volume: 5

Print publication date: 01/06/2024

Online publication date: 15/03/2024

Acceptance date: 14/03/2024

Date deposited: 08/04/2024

ISSN (electronic): 2666-5603

Publisher: Elsevier Ltd


DOI: 10.1016/j.ssmmh.2024.100314


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Funder referenceFunder name
Three NIHR Research Schools Mental Health Programme