The third strand that is needed and which does not happen in Australia involves large-scale clinical trials – multi-centre clinical trials in which patients are symptomatically assessed, assigned to a treatment protocol and followed up to examine the results.

“These are the sorts of things that have been done in cancer for example, paediatric cancer in particular, where there are very large networks that operate on clinical trials platforms,” Dr Carr said.

He added that about 5 per cent of people with schizophrenia would commit suicide. “They make a fairly small number of the suicides overall compared to depression, for example, but 5 per cent of 45-50,000 people per year is quite a lot.”

Greg Bright: “Donald, what does it mean facing that, what do you do, what does it mean for families? Is it possible to have somebody back in the workforce at least part time? What does a family have to do to survive? “

Donald McDonald: “In the last three years before I retired, up to 2004, the Minister for Health commissioned me to help put the new institute on its feet. And one of the things I did was to go out and do workplace presentations about mental illness. And over a three-year period I did in excess of 400 presentations. Sometimes up to 500 or 600 or 700 workers. And what I found is that people were coming out of the woodwork from all directions. And they were talking about their wives, their husbands, their sons, their daughters, and so on.

“But the thing that impacted upon me is that the effect it had on them. How much it was causing them to have time off work, how they were not getting sleep, how their marriage was breaking up and the other kids were being neglected, and so on and so forth. So that the real crisis represented across families by this illness was really being revealed…

“Now having said that, in my case, we have three kids – Warwick who’s 33, there’s Craig who’s 31, and Lara who’s 27. Now there’s no history of mental illness in our family by the way. None whatsoever on either side. And our second-eldest son, Craig, is a property trust manager, Lara’s just graduated as an occupational therapist. But with Warwick, he was going to Randwick Boys High School, and he was a champion athlete, he was a representative rugby union player and went on all the athletic events. He was in the top maths class, he was doing very well in English, he was extremely well read. And then when he was 15 we got a report that he wasn’t attending school. So I used to often be off to work like a lot of people are, quite early in the morning, before the kids are due to leave for school. And so I decided I’d stay home and go to work late to see what was going on.

Leave a comment