‘I believe that we can and we will cure schizophrenia’

It would mean so much to families impacted by schizophrenia to have your support during this challenging time.

If you can make a generous gift, please do so today.

“He was 18 and the captain of his school. Then the psychosis sort of crept up. He thought he had to save the world and that there was a big tsunami coming.”

Juliet – sharing her son Harvey’s battle

At a time when anxiety and confusion is creeping into all of our lives, we search for ways we can help each other through this crisis.

My name is Cyndi Shannon Weickert and I have been a researcher at NeuRA for over a decade. I am writing to you from lock-down in New York. I watch with trepidation and sorrow as an invisible enemy attacks New York City and the world. This is a global medical emergency like we have never faced before.

Today, I am writing about a different invisible enemy, the one causing schizophrenia. As we come to terms with staying at home and dealing with the loss of daily interactions with friends and family, we must not forget about those that experience this same isolation and social loss every day of their adult lives. People suffering from schizophrenia face the sad reality that social distancing measures will not be lifted for them, at least not without our help.

Some say the only way we can “return to normal” is once researchers have developed a vaccine. Everyone is rallying behind those scientists with increased funding and public support, and we all hope that a vaccine will be developed soon.

In contrast, the battle we face with schizophrenia is not new, we underfund our research efforts relative to the disease burden and we struggle to get public support because of the stigma associated with this illness.

I am not going to give up now and I hope you won’t either. I’ve dedicated my life to research aimed at stopping the devastating effects of schizophrenia.

I’ve taken the extraordinary step to write to you directly today because the urgency of my research has never been so clear to me. As coronavirus fears escalate, you may be thinking about those most vulnerable.

Let us not forget that in our community are people who experience psychotic episodes who are also vulnerable.

At NeuRA, my lab has discovered a new way forward for the schizophrenia research field. We were the first lab to identify inflammation in the brains of people with schizophrenia and to show this inflammation is active in about half of those with schizophrenia. This new biological understanding has allowed us to repurpose drug therapies with encouraging results.

With this kind of new insight, now is the time to invest in schizophrenia research so that we can capitalise on these breakthroughs – even during a time of crisis.

 I’d like to tell you about Juliet and Harvey who are one of many thousands of Australian families struggling with the heartbreak that psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia, bipolar disorder and others can bring.

Even before the psychosis started, Harvey and his mum Juliet had it tough. Juliet was struggling with the challenges of being a single mum. Harvey, who is on the autism spectrum, was being bullied.

But despite this, Harvey was excelling. He was captain of the school, and had won a handful of leadership awards.

Then one day everything changed.

“Suddenly there it was,” Juliet said. “He was running out on the street and doing all these weird things.”

The Schizophrenia Research teams at NeuRA are dedicated to discovering ways to better treat, prevent and cure schizophrenia.

But although we’ve already made great progress toward better understanding psychiatric diseases, continued research is urgently needed.

I know this only too well. I lost my own twin brother, Scott, after years of heartbreak, loss of friends, loss of choices, and increased fear caused by his schizophrenia.

I am thinking of him often as I experience the loneliness of social distancing and anxiety about this coronavirus, and wondering if I am getting a bitter taste of just how awful life would be if this went on and on.

I can’t bring my brother back. But it’s not too late for Harvey and Juliet. We must take action now.

Stressors – such as the bullying Harvey faced, or the coronavirus pandemic we are all currently experiencing – can have a dramatic, negative effect on young lives. These types of events can be the catalyst for a slide into schizophrenia, or the kick-starter of a life plagued by psychotic episodes.

We schizophrenia researchers need your urgent help to research new ways to prevent and treat these mental illnesses. Will you help me and NeuRA discover new ways to prevent, treat, or maybe even cure this evil disease?

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.

With my sincere thanks,

Professor Cyndi Shannon Weickert

NSW Chair of Schizophrenia Research

All gifts over $2 are tax deductible.

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