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Health Services Research & Development

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Spotlight: Serious Mental Illness

October 2011

** If you are a Veteran experiencing a mental health crisis, or are a family member of a Veteran in crisis, please call the Veterans Crisis line at: 1-800-273-8255, and press 1.


Mental Health for Rural Veterans

John Fortney, Ph.D. talks about efforts to deliver mental health services to rural Veterans.

Selected HSRD Studies and Reports

Additional VA Resources

  • Visit VA's comprehensive Mental Health information website.
  • Visit the mental health topic page at MyHealtheVet.
  • Learn more about how VA mental health experts at the Eastern Colorado VAMC are collaborating with the Department of Defense on suicide prevention efforts.


Mental illnesses rank first among the conditions that cause disability in the United States. And among mental illnesses, serious mental illnesses (SMI)1—including major depression, schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, obsessive compulsive disorder (OCD), panic disorder, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and borderline personality disorder—carry an additional impact. Many studies have shown that individuals with SMI show higher rates of acute and chronic illnesses, lower quality general medical care, worse long-term outcomes, and shorter life expectancy than the general population.2 The cost to individuals and society in economic terms is also significant—according to a 2008 study, SMI costs in lost earnings were almost $193 billion.3

According to VA data for 2009, of more than 5.3 million people treated in VA facilities, 895,875 (17%)4 were diagnosed with depression. Further, the overall population of Veterans diagnosed with psychosis in the VA increased from 228,356 in 2008 to 234,674 in 2009.5 Many Veterans with SMI also have co-occurring conditions, ranging from homelessness to addiction to chronic disease, which can make it harder to effectively treat the underlying SMI.

To help address the complex needs of Veterans with SMI, investigators within the VA Health Services Research & Development Service (VA HSR&D) are examining ways to improve care delivery, quality, and effectiveness. To learn more about VA HSR&D research efforts, or to find other SMI resources within VA, refer to links in the "Resources" box to the right.

1 National Alliance on Mental Illness website mental health fact sheet.

2 VA HSR&D QUERI program mental health fact sheet

3 Kessler et al, "Individual and societal effects of mental illness on earnings: results from national comorbidity survey replication", Am J Psychiatry. 2008 Jun;165(6):703-11. Epub 2008 May 7.

4 "Care for Veterans with Psychosis in the Veterans Health Administration, FY09", 11th Annual National Psychosis Registry Report. VA HSR&D Serious Mental Illness Treatment Resource and Evaluation Center, Ann Arbor, MI

5 ibid

Questions about the HSR&D website? Email the Web Team

Any health information on this website is strictly for informational purposes and is not intended as medical advice. It should not be used to diagnose or treat any condition.