“Without research, we’re never going to lessen the burden faced by people with schizophrenia and their families every day.”

As parents, it’s natural to hope that our children will grow up to lead happy, productive lives – we expect one day they’ll marry, have children, have meaningful careers and live independently.

 

When he was growing up, I had no reason to believe my son, Richard wouldn’t have all this and more. A prefect in high school, he was brilliant at everything he did, from rowing to rugby, music and languages – and he excelled academically. But when he was in the third year of his law degree, my wife Sonja found him sitting on the floor in his bedroom, crying.

He was diagnosed with schizophrenia shortly after.

Suddenly, our hope for our son’s bright future was overshadowed by uncertainty and fear. Almost two decades later, we’ve all accepted that Richard will never have the life we dreamed of, but while research continues, we still have hope.

From heartbreak to hope

My name is Norbert Schweizer. I’m a member of the NeuRA board and a former chair of the NeuRA Foundation.  I’m a passionate supporter of research into schizophrenia. Richard, who was diagnosed with schizophrenia almost two decades ago, is an incredible person who inspires me every day.

I’m sharing our story with you in hope that it helps you understand why we must continue to support NeuRA’s important research. Unless there are new treatments and a deeper understanding of the causes of schizophrenia, there is little hope for those who live with this devastating disease and their families.

Research is critical if we’re going to find new avenues of treatment for schizophrenia. Will you support us? 

Almost two decades after his diagnosis, Richard has an honours degree in Sociology, first class honours in his law degree, a Master of Journalism and a PhD in Sociology from Sydney University. He works for the NSW Mental Health Commission and for One Door Mental Health – his life is meaningful and we’re incredibly proud of him.

Sadly, the story of many families of people living with schizophrenia is vastly different from ours. Some have tragically lost loved ones to the disease, while others struggle to find the right support and medication to let their loved ones live the life they deserve.

Giving hope through research

Shortly after Richard’s diagnosis, I became involved with the Schizophrenia Research Institute, and then with NeuRA. I also became aware of the wonderful Professor Cyndi Shannon Weickert and her incredible team, and particularly of their groundbreaking research into the causes and possible new treatments for schizophrenia.

Professor Shannon-Weickert has contributed a huge amount to schizophrenia research over more than 20 years, but progress is slow and hampered by lack of long-term funding. Without research, there’s no hope of finding the cause, or developing more effective treatments so that one in every 100 Australians who live with schizophrenia can have a more fulfilling life.

In recent years, Professor Shannon-Weickert and her team have made some important discoveries about the effect of inflammation in schizophrenia and the role of immune cells in the brain.

These breakthroughs could potentially lead to new and improved treatments – but we can only continue vital research like this with your help. Please consider a tax-deductible donation to help change the future for people like Richard.

Opening up new avenues for treatment

When Sonja and I first found out about Richard’s diagnosis, we were frightened he would lose his mental acuity or be permanently changed – either by the disease itself or by the medication he needs to take daily to suppress his psychotic symptoms.

The medication makes Richard groggy, and he sleeps for up to 12 hours a day. His mental acuity has remained, but he’s not who he used to be – we watched as our son changed from warm, gregarious and outgoing to anxious, often depressed and withdrawn.

We still feel very fortunate. Medications for schizophrenia often come with side effects like weight gain, involuntary jaw movements and excessive saliva production. For some people, antipsychotic medications don’t work at all, leaving them struggling with terrible symptoms that make it largely impossible to live their lives.

Sadly, there have been no great breakthroughs or advances in the treatment of schizophrenia since the 1980s. Thanks to the hard work of Professor Shannon-Weickert and her team, we’ve recently seen some encouraging developments. But without a consistent source of funding, this important work would not be able to continue.

New medications would change lives for countless people who are suffering. But we can’t do it with you. Please consider making a tax-deductible donation to keep research into new treatments for schizophrenia alive.

Relief from the burden of uncertainty

Isolation is a common problem for people living with schizophrenia and, unfortunately, the pandemic made things worse. We’ve experienced first-hand the severe impact the last two years have had on Richard’s wellbeing.

Without face-to-face support and social interaction, Richard became more isolated and anxious during the pandemic. He also grew increasingly reluctant to meet people, to go out and do things – this became a vicious cycle where the less he went out, the more he became apprehensive and distressed at the thought of social interaction and leaving the house.

But it’s not just Richard who has struggled during the pandemic. Many people living with schizophrenia have experienced setbacks and challenges, with lasting impacts on their quality of life and wellbeing. Unfortunately, the current medications can only go so far when the unexpected happens – what we need are better treatments that address the causes of schizophrenia.

Because no single cause of schizophrenia has been identified, it is hard to develop treatments. Without more research, we can’t get closer to being able to treat the root causes of this disease and provide long-term relief.

Funding cuts are putting vital research in jeopardy. Donations from generous supporters like you will help us get closer to the next breakthrough and open up new avenues of treatment for people living with schizophrenia. 

Hope for families

Research brings hope to families like ours, who are unexpectedly thrust into a carer role and have to additionally support their loved ones physically, emotionally and financially. While we do it gladly, it’s not always easy and the impact it has on those around us can’t be overstated.

Having a child living with schizophrenia comes with a huge emotional toll and constant worry about the future. Our biggest fears are around what will happen to Richard after we’re gone, and how he will manage when we’re not here to support him any longer.

Better treatments could help lighten the load for the families of people living with schizophrenia and give them some hope that their loved ones would be able to cope into the future.

Can you help us continue vital research into finding better treatments for schizophrenia? Your generosity makes all the difference to the future of those living with this devastating disease. 

Schizophrenia research brings hope to families like ours, but more than that – I believe it has the potential to change the world for the better. Some of the greatest achievements in history have been created by people with mental illness – like Vincent Van Gogh, Edvard Munch, Virginia Woolf and Ernest Hemingway.

Research is the only way we can unlock the potential of people like Richard, so they can use their many unique talents to make all our lives richer. Research brings hope. Hope that people diagnosed with schizophrenia can live with fewer symptoms and side effects. Hope that they will one day be able to live happy, fulfilling lives, free from stigma. Hope that their families can be relieved of the burden of constant worry.

Please join me in supporting our researchers and the wonderful work they do to bring hope to the over one hundred thousand Australians living with schizophrenia and their loved ones.

Yours sincerely,

Norbert Schweizer OAM

PS. We all need hope to get through our day and for people living with schizophrenia and their families. Research equals hope. It’s absolutely essential that the research of people like Professor Shannon-Weickert can continue, but this is not possible without your support. Your tax-deductible donation could change the future for people living with schizophrenia and give hope to them and their families. Thank you.

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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