The world doesn’t open up in the same way to someone with schizophrenia.

Over the last 18 months, the world has been a different place. Isolation has become common, and there have been many barriers to maintaining a regular routine. For people with a mental illness like schizophrenia, regular appointments and routine are vital to their wellbeing. And as we slowly return to ‘normal’, the world doesn’t open up in the same way to someone with schizophrenia.

Last year, one of NeuRA’s most passionate researchers Professor Cyndi Shannon Weickert wrote to you about her fight against schizophrenia. Cyndi speaks of the time when her twin brother was diagnosed at 17 and her connection to schizophrenia became intensely personal. I want to follow up
her letter to you now with one of my own.

As a researcher myself, I have dedicated my life’s work to finding ways to accelerate our understanding of disorders of the brain. Not many of these have an impact as devastating as schizophrenia, nor are as stigmatised in our society.

Unfortunately, schizophrenia is not only misunderstood, it’s also grossly underfunded. There isn’t enough support to enable the focused research we need to make future breakthroughs. But the potential is there and brilliant and motivated researchers like Cyndi are not going to give up. This is why I’m asking for your help.

Today, if researching schizophrenia was thought of as a journey of discovery equivalent to setting sail across the Atlantic Ocean from Europe, we have travelled quite a distance, but have only just spotted land. We can’t tell if it is India, America or some unknown island yet to be discovered – but there is now something solid to explore, not just an endless sea surrounding us. This land that Cyndi and her team have spotted is unexplored. She has found immune cells invading the human brain which could trigger abnormal brain function in someone with schizophrenia. Now we need to figure out more about these cells. Why are they there? What they are up to? The hope is that we can block the immune cells from gaining entry into the brains of our loved ones and bring about relief from this illness.

Elly’s story

I’d like to tell you about one person who felt the isolation and helplessness of this terrible illness more recently. When Elly was 21 years old, she told her mother Helena she “did not feel anything” and after visiting several doctors, she was diagnosed with schizophrenia. Helena found out all she could about the illness and dedicated herself to looking after her daughter as best she could.

“Schizophrenia is an illness that cannot be healed, only the symptoms can be treated. Medication only sedated Elly. As the illness progressed, for someone who was previously very intelligent, she lost her memory and
level of thinking,” Helena says.

Helena says Elly was a delightful, bright and talented young girl. She was gifted and creative, got a university degree and worked as a graphic designer. However, one of Elly’s biggest challenges was battling the stigma of the illness. She did not want anyone to know that she had schizophrenia.

“Elly was suspicious, thought that people would constantly talk to her and that they knew what she was thinking by transferring her thoughts into
their brains. She just wanted to be like everyone else and sadly she felt she was not able to achieve that,” Helena says.

“We know so little about this terrible disease. It would be such a relief to be able to help people like Elly with their suffering. The research needs to continue, and hopefully NeuRA will provide some answers before too long.”

It deeply saddens me to inform you that Elly took her own life. I sincerely thank Helena for sharing Elly’s story with staff at NeuRA, to highlight the immense need for more insight into the devastating impacts of schizophrenia on the human brain and young lives.

One in every 100 Australians lives with schizophrenia. No single cause of schizophrenia has been identified, and this has prevented the development of a cure. The current treatments for schizophrenia are designed to suppress symptoms rather than target underlying causes of the disorder, because these are still unknown.

There are many talented researchers in Australia who want the opportunity to progress our understanding of psychiatric diseases. We all compete for the same limited pool of Government grant funding, and success rates have dwindled to less than 10% of applications actually being funded. Generous donors like yourself can keep the hope of finding a cure for schizophrenia alive.

Will you help us discover new ways to prevent, treat, or maybe even cure this disease?

Donations from generous supporters like you are crucial to this research. A gift would be so significant in accelerating our research and providing new hope to families facing schizophrenia.

It would mean so much to families impacted by this disease to have your support during this challenging time. If you can make a generous gift, please do so today.

All gifts over $2 are tax deductible.

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