Purpose: The aim of this study is to determine the perceptions of both individuals with severe mental illness and their family caregivers regarding the physical health status of patients. Design and methods: A descriptive qualitative design was implemented, and 11 individuals with severe mental illness and 12 caregivers were analysed. Findings: Two main themes emerged as a result of the content analysis: a "physical health‐related barriers" theme and a "need for better physical health" theme. Practice implications: Patients and their family caregivers experience a number of barriers and difficulties related to maintaining and improving physical health. Psychiatric nurses should recognize these barriers and assist in empowering both patients and their family caregivers to overcome them.