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BMC Psychiatry. 2013 May 11;13:137. doi: 10.1186/1471-244X-13-137.

Typology of persons with severe mental disorders.

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Department of Psychiatry, McGill University, Douglas Hospital Research Centre, 6875 LaSalle Blvd, Montreal, Quebec H4H 1R3, Canada.



Persons with severe mental disorders (PSMD) form a highly heterogeneous group. Identifying subgroups sharing similar PSMD profiles may help to develop treatment plans and appropriate services for their needs. This study seeks to establish a PSMD typology by looking at individual characteristics and the amount and adequacy of help received.


The study recruited a sample of 352 persons located in south-western Montreal (Quebec, Canada). Cluster analysis was used to create a PSMD typology.


Analysis yielded five clusters: 1. highly functional older women with mood disorders, receiving little help from services; 2. middle-aged men with diverse mental disorders and alcohol abuse, receiving insufficient and inadequate help; 3. middle-aged women with serious needs, mood and personality disorders and suicidal tendencies, living in autonomous apartments, and receiving ample but inadequate help; 4. highly educated younger men with schizophrenia, living in autonomous apartments, and receiving adequate help; and 5. older poorly educated men with schizophrenia, living in supervised apartments, with ample help perceived as adequate. Marked differences were found between men and women, between users diagnosed with schizophrenia and others, and between persons living in supervised or autonomous apartments.


Our study highlights the existence of parallel subgroups among PSMD related to their socio-demographic status, clinical needs and service-use profiles, which could be used to focus more appropriate interventions. For mental health service planning, it demonstrates the relevance of focusing on individuals showing critical needs who are affected by multiple mental disorders (especially when associated with alcohol abuse), and often find help received as less adequate.

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