UMMS Affiliation

Lamar Soutter Library; Department of Psychiatry; Systems and Psychosocial Advances Research Center

Publication Date


Document Type



Health Communication | Health Information Technology | Library and Information Science | Mental Disorders | Psychiatry | Public Health Education and Promotion


Introduction: Individuals with serious mental illness (SMI) die, on average, 25 years earlier than the general population. Higher rates of smoking, alcohol consumption, poor nutrition, lack of physical activity, obesity, lack of preventive healthcare, and other modifiable risk factors, as well as side effects associated with certain antipsychotic medications, place individuals with SMI at high physical health risk. They are designated a health disparity population by the US National Association of State Mental Health Program Directors and as a vulnerable group worldwide by the World Health Organization. While the Internet provides intriguing opportunities to support person-centered health care, web-based resources often convey new barriers and consequently, contribute to greater health disparities for individuals with SMI. Many individuals with disabilities or a chronic illness, report feeling frustrated, overwhelmed, and confused using the Internet. Web design accommodations for this population have been recommended, but not generally applied.

Methods: Phase one of this three-year project focused on an environmental scan of available resources and needs assessment. We conducted six IRB-approved focus groups (n=42) with individuals with SMI and with health information providers (librarians, researchers and practitioners) with the goal of embracing user experience and design accommodations required for individuals with SMI.

Conclusion: Through the results of the focus groups, we identified central themes regarding the general usage of online resources among people with SMI (e.g., types of online sources used, criteria for choosing the appropriate website, types of information searched) as well as themes identifying the specific needs and requirements that this population have in gathering information (e.g., the need for holistic information, suggestions for coping skills, content encouraging hope, and language that avoids labeling and stigma)). We can conclude that people with SMI lack literacy skills on how to appropriately select and use online health information. There is a need for online tools providing holistic information about how to manage physical and mental health.


mental health information literacy, focus groups, online resources, website

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DOI of Published Version



Kostova, Zlatina; Levin, Len; Sindhu, Mahima; Nicholson, Joanne; Biebel, Kathleen; and Martin, Elaine R. (2017). "Implementing an Online Health Information Platform for People With Serious Mental Illness." Poster presented at the American Psychological Association meeting, August 5, 2017, Washington, DC.

Journal/Book/Conference Title

2017 American Psychological Association meeting

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 License.