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People with serious mental illness account for a disproportionate share of suicides, homelessness, violence, and incarceration. According to data collected by the Mental Illness Policy Organization:

  • 2 million mentally ill Americans go untreated. One third of America’s mentally ill are homeless (200,000). 1

  • 6% of incarcerated Americans (300,000) have serious mental illness.

  • More than 1,000 homicides a year in the U.S. are committed by the mentally ill.

  • 10-17% of the seriously mentally ill kill themselves.

  • $15 billion is spent incarcerating the mentally ill in the U.S. Preventable acts of violence by a minority are tarring the majority.


Anosognosia, also called "lack of insight," is a symptom of severe mental illness experienced by some that impairs a person’s ability to understand and perceive his or her illness. It is the single largest reason why people with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder refuse medications or do not seek treatment. Without awareness of the illness, refusing treatment appears rational, no matter how clear the need for treatment might be to others.


Approximately 50% of individuals with schizophrenia and 40% with bipolar disorder have symptoms of anosognosia. Long recognized in stroke, Alzheimer’s disease and other neurological conditions, studies of anosognosia in psychiatric disorders is producing a growing body of evidence of anatomical damage in the part of the brain involved with self-reflection. When taking medications, insight improves in some patients.


The non-treatment of serious mental illness has a profound impact on those suffering from SMI. This includes the lack of continuity of care and treatment.


According to data published by the Treatment Advocacy Center:

An estimated 8.3 million American adults live with diagnoses of schizophrenia or severe bipolar disorder – just over 3% of the US adult population. About half of these individuals are untreated at any given time, most commonly because they lack insight into their condition.

When untreated, these individuals are at high risk for a number of negative circumstances that profoundly impact them and those around them.

  • Homelessness: 30% of the chronically homeless population is estimated to have SMI.

  • “Psychiatric boarding:” People in mental health crisis wait for days – even weeks – in ERs because of psychiatric bed shortages.

  • Arrest: More than 1.8 million people with SMI are booked into jails every year.

  • Incarceration: 20% of jail and prison inmates are estimated to have SMI.

  • Victimization: 25% of individuals with mental illness are victimized in some way each year.

  • Suicidality: Up to 50% of those with schizophrenia or bipolar disorder attempt suicide, and far more kill themselves than people without these disorders.

  • Familial violence: 29% of family homicides are committed by someone with SMI.

  • Danger to others: 7% of all homicides, 20% of all law enforcement officer fatalities and up to 50% of mass homicides are associated with SMI.

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