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Guardianship for Adults with Serious Mental Illness

Mental illness affects one in five adults in the United States, the National Institute of Mental Health reports. The severity of mental illness varies. Serious mental illnesses are mental, behavioral, or emotional disorders that cause significant life impairment and limit major life activities. In 2021, 14.1 million American adults had a serious mental illness.

Many people with mental health challenges can live independent lives. However, those with severe impairments may need additional help.

Serious mental illnesses can cause incapacity. When a person with behavioral health issues cannot make personal or financial decisions or becomes unable to care for themselves, the court may step in to appoint a guardian.

Often, a loved one will serve as the guardian. However, some states have public guardianship systems or social service agencies. These agencies offer guardianship services.

Guardianship requires a finding of loss of capacity. States can differ in how they define this term. Generally, a person with a mental illness is incapacitated when they cannot understand information or communicate, per World Guardianship Congress.

Read more about guardianships for adults with mental illness.