This line of research includes efforts to address disparities in mental health and mental health care and to develop interventions that reduce barriers created by limited literacy in mental health care. These interventions engage a number of strategies including: providing literacy support to individuals, developing reading groups within mental health outpatient settings, as well as utilizing the universal precautions approach – to reduce system level literacy barriers.
Limited literacy is an important and under-examined factor in the lives of people with SMI and is also associated with health disparities in multiple ways. The relationships among literacy and health have been well documented, with research showing that people with lower literacy skills have worse health outcomes for a variety of chronic conditions, including cancer, diabetes, and asthma (Berkman et al., 2004). Adults who report having a mental health problem have significantly lower literacy levels than adults who did not, even after controlling for education (Sentell & Shumway, 2003). In public mental health treatment settings, from 54% (Currier, Sitzman, & Trenton, 2001) to 76% (Christensen & Grace, 1999) of participants score at or below the eighth-grade level. Emerging evidence suggests literacy is also related to psychiatric symptoms and diagnoses, mental health service utilization, quality of life, and community participation for people who live with mental illness.
In keeping with the mission of IUHR and the findings of the Literacy Study (see prior projects), we are working on developing and implementing 3 separate pilot interventions.