Schizophrenia.com - Site Update
This is the first newsletter this year and I'd like to start it with
a note of thanks to all of you that have supported the Schizophrenia.com
web site in the past year; as donors and volunteers. I had wanted
to send each of the donors a thank you note personally for your assistance
this past year, unfortunately because we are a project under a larger
nonprofit organization it was going to be very difficult for me to
get the names.
So, I want to thank you today for your assistance during what I know
has been a difficult year for many people economically. With donations
and a little advertising revenue we managed to keep the web site up
yet another year (just barely).
I think we're on our 8th year now! Late last year we managed to scrape
together enough money for a new server for the discussion areas -
so if you visit them now, you'll notice that its now very fast to
post new messages as well as to search for old ones. We encourage
you to join in the discussion areas (on-line support areas and chat)
if you haven't been lately. We now have over 22,000 registered users
of the on-line support areas.
During this past year we've been very busy upgrading the schizophrenia.com
web site (please check out the new design and all the new information
we've added - at www.schizophrenia.com).
Web Logs - Assistance Needed. This year one of my top priorities
is to expand the Schizophrenia Web Logs (or Blogs for short) at the
site, to allow you - the visitors to the site - a much more active
hand in the development of the site. We've already got two great web
logs up and running - including one by the noted writer (Pamela Wagner)
and an India resident by the name of Puzli. Both Pam and Puzli suffer
from schizophrenia. I encourage you to check out the writings of these
two - and I hope you'll consider starting your own Blog to help educate
the world about schizophrenia with your own insights and experiences.
We'd love to get some assistance from Universities (students and professors
working in the area of schizophrenia), as well as from professionals.
For information on starting your own blog - please go to: http://www.schizophrenia.com/blogintro.htm
Internet Videos - Another high priority is to offer a lot
more Internet-based videos related to schizophrenia, right on the
schizophrenia.com web site. We are very actively seeking donations
of high quality public-domain educational videos on schizophrenia
that we will then convert to Internet format so that anyone can access
them at our web site any time of the day , from anywhere in the world.
We'd also like to get video and audio recordings of good conferences
and the presentations associated with them (ie. the powerpoint files)
so that we could convert these also to Internet-based formats. Examples
of the types of video and audio files that we'd like to get include
NIMH symposiums, University Presentations, NAMI or other schizophrenia
organization annual meeting presentations, and similar such events.
Please send us an email if you can suggest anyone we might talk to
about source materials such as this.
Related to the desire to add more videos to our web site - we've
also begun linking to more Internet-based videos on other web sites.
The recently updated "Advanced Information" part of the
web site now has many new videos on the latest schizophrenia research
symposiums. See : http://www.schizophrenia.com/research/
We at schizophrenia .com wish you the best for 2004, and look forward
to conveying to you the latest progress in the battle against schizophrenia.
The Schizophrenia.com Team
Letters to the Editor
Therapies for Schizophrenia?
Do you have more information on Orthomolecular psychiatric in treating
schizophrenia? I am looking for critical information (I can get tons
on positive glowing but typically very biased reports on Orthomolecular
psychiatric on the net). I also have access to a local medical library
and so I can go to the "source" if I need to.
You mentioned the American Psychiatric Association Task Force Report,
July 1973 already. Are there other good evaluation materials also?
I am asking this because I keep on running into this "vitamin"
therapy stuff (and many variations of it). This is very important
for me because I am also a volunteer instructor for a local NAMI Family
to Family class (for family who struggle with serious mental illness).
What I need is some good material backing me up in terms of the ineffectiveness
of Orthomolecular psychiatry, especially with regard to schizophrenia.
I have seen information on this "Orthomolecular Psychiatry"
and have read about a number of recent and serious law suits in Canada
against hucksters on the Internet who have marked vitamin C and others
as "cures" to schizophrenia. Everything I've read on the
subject has been very negative - and Dr. Irwin of Vancouver, Canada
has stated that Orthomolecular Psychiatry is "an approach which
Dr. Abram Hoffer and others developed in the 1950s, but which by the
1970s was proven to be fruitless. The work of Dr. Hoffer and others
is discussed in detail in the American Psychiatric Association Task
Force Report, July 1973, which points out methodological flaws in
the early work and reviews later studies which failed to show any
benefit for such treatments."
I thought that the issue was so old and dead that it wasn't worth
addressing any further - but you are right, families with schizophrenia
are frequently desperate and there doesn't seem to be much public
literature on this. Also - and please if there are some researchers
out there who are familiar with this, please let us know more - but
it seems like there are two aspects to vitamins as they relate to
schizophrenia. Recent research seems to suggest that EPA and Omega-3
fish oils do provide some (relatively minor, but statistically significant)
relief from some schizophrenia symptoms but in my opinion in absolutely
no sense do they (or any other vitamins) provide any type of "cure"
or even significant relief from schizophrenia - and should not be
used as the only treatment for schizophrenia. This is very different
than the "cures" that Dr. Hoffer and others have been claiming
for decades (as Dr. Irwin suggests above). If any scientists have
any further information on this, please let us know.
If anyone out there knows about, or has access to, the report that
is mentioned above or any other good reviews or information on the
literature related to this subject - please email us. We'll be providing
an update on this in a future newsletter.
Scholarships or grants for offspring of
Perhaps you can help me, or direct me in the right direction. My
mother is a paranoid schizophrenic who refuses treatment. As you probably
know, treatment cannot be legally forced on her, but she has been
hospitalized several times. She refuses to live with my father (who
has custody of me), and so they are separated- but she also is unable
to function well enough to have a job of any kind. The hospital bills,
psychiatrist bills, and payments associated with fully supporting
two separate residences have put great financial stress on my father's
My question is, do you know of any way I can get any sort of help
in furthering my education?
Any sort of scholarship or grant dealing with my issue? Even if you
could only direct me in the right direction, your help would be greatly
appreciated. Although I have sought help, I am quite lost in the issue
and refuse to believe that there is not some way to get aid in my
very rare and very serious situation. Thank you very much for your
time and concern.
Sincerely, B Parker
RESPONSE: I'm Sorry - I don't have any such information. If any of
the readers of this newsletter do - please send it to me and we'll
forward it to the student.
The following is a fund raising film festival that seems like something
that schizophrenia groups around the world could do to raise awareness
Toronto, Ontario, Canada film festival:
The schedule and list of films for the Rendezvous with Madness Film
Festival (Nov 14-23) online at:
Bird Brains, by E. Fuller Torrey
You might not know this, but the National Institute of Mental Health
(NIMH), the federal agency responsible for research on mental illnesses,
is the world's leading center for study on how pigeons think. In fact,
the agency funded 92 research projects on pigeons from 1972 to 2002.
During the same period, by contrast, NIMH funded only one project
on postpartum depression, a devastating mental illness that affects
women like Andrea Yates, who killed her five children in Texas in
NIMH clearly has its priorities wrong. Serious mental illnesses like
Yates's account for 58 percent of the total costs of mental illnesses
in the U.S. Yet NIMH spends just 5.8% of its resources on real search
that could lead to more effective treatment of schizophrenia, bipolar
disorder, severe depression, and other serious mental afflictions.
Worse still, a new study from the Treatment Advocacy Center (a group
I am affiliated with) shows that the percentage of NIMH research resources
devoted to serious mental illnesses actually fell over the past five
years, even as the institute's budget doubled from $661 million to
$1.3 billion. At the same time, federal costs for the care of seriously
mentally ill individuals have gone through the roof; they now total
$41 billion yearly and are rocketing upward at a rate of $2.6 billion
a year. Expenditures on the mentally ill are a big factor in the surging
costs of Medicaid and Medicare. Putting aside the fact that men and
women with untreated serious mental illnesses make up a third of the
homeless population and crowd our jails and prisons-transforming them
into our de facto mental institutions-we should, on economic grounds
alone, be investing heavily in research on the causes and treatment
of these diseases. Breakthroughs could save billions of dollars a
But NIMH doesn't see it that way. During the past five years, it
has funded research on how Papua New Guineans think but refused to
pay for a treatment trial for schizophrenia; bankrolled research on
self-esteem in college students but nixed funding for research on
bipolar disorder in children; and paid for a study on how electric
fish communicate but not for research on why some individuals with
schizophrenia refuse to take their medication. If NIMH were an individual,
a psychiatric assessment would be in order.
The diagnosis would be terminal grandiosity. According to long-standing
NIMH culture, the institute's mission concerns mental health-and that
means that all forms of human behavior and social problems are legitimate
research topics. From NIMH's perspective, mental illness is only a
small, and not very interesting, part of its lofty purpose.
Since we can't call a psychiatrist to examine NIMH, we should at
least get Congress to take a closer look. Congressional hearings should
assess NIMH's priorities and require that a minimum percentage of
the institute's budget-50%, say-fund research on serious mental illnesses.
Furthermore, the General Accounting Office, charged with evaluating
federal programs, should also critically examine NIMH's work.
Among many dubious recent NIMH research projects are several on the
idea of happiness, including "Cultural Differences in Self-Reports
of Well-Being." If the money spent on researching happiness had
gone instead toward developing better treatments for depression, the
NIMH likely would have added a lot more to the sum of human felicity.
Dr. Torrey, president of the Treatment Advocacy Center in Arlington,
Va., is author of Surviving Schizophrenia (Quill, 4th ed., 2001).
This is adapted from the latest City Journal.
Full report on NIMH Spending on Serious Brain Disorders see:
A Federal Failure in Psychiatric Research, November, 2003
(click on link below)
Editor: If you agree with Dr. Torrey - I recommend you contact both
your local congressman and your local NAMI office to let them know
Excerpt from: In Mental Health Research,
a Clash Over Funding Priorities
By Shankar Vedantam
Wednesday, December 24, 2003; Page A13
"A recent report criticizing the funding priorities of the federal
government's National Institute of Mental Health has reignited controversy
over the organization's direction and destiny -- with the top official
at the institute echoing some of the criticism himself.
The percentage of funds devoted to severe mental illnesses has shrunk
even as the institute's budget has doubled, according to the report
issued last month by psychiatrist E. Fuller Torrey's Treatment Advocacy
Center, the Public Citizen Health Research Group and other mental
The report has created sharp divisions among the many mental health
experts, advocacy groups and professional organizations that have
stakes in the agency's mission and direction, and has illustrated
the growing gap between scientific and popular visions of mental health
research. Ultimately, the issue may be decided not within the NIMH
but on Capitol Hill."
Schizophrenia and Sunlight
The chance of developing schizophrenia may be directly linked to
how sunny it was in the months before a person's birth, research suggests.
A lack of sunlight can lead to vitamin D deficiency, which scientists
believe could alter the development of a child's brain in the womb.
according to an article in the New Scientist in 2002, research suggests
people who develop schizophrenia in Europe and North America are more
likely to be born in the spring.
A psychiatrist at the Queensland Centre of Schizophrenia Research
in Brisbane, Australia, made similar findings, suggesting a lack of
UV light during pregnancy tips the balance towards schizophrenia in
genetically susceptible people.
Note: The following is a short
summary of a very good article from Scientific American Magazine that
is freely available on the internet. To read the full article (which
we highly recommend) please click on the link at the end of the summary.
December 15, 2003
A fuller understanding of signaling in the brain of people with this
disorder offers new hope for improved therapy
By Daniel C. Javitt and Joseph T. Coyle
Today the word "schizophrenia" brings to mind such names
as John Nash and Andrea Yates. Nash, the subject of the Oscar-winning
film A Beautiful Mind, emerged as a mathematical prodigy and eventually
won a Nobel Prize for his early work, but he became so profoundly
disturbed by the brain disorder in young adulthood that he lost his
academic career and floundered for years before recovering. Yates,
a mother of five who suffers from both depression and schizophrenia,
infamously drowned her young children in a bathtub to "save them
from the devil" and is now in prison.
The experiences of Nash and Yates are typical in some
ways but atypical in others. Of the roughly 1 percent of the world's
population stricken with schizophrenia, most remain largely disabled
throughout adulthood. Rather than being geniuses like Nash, many show
below- average intelligence even before they become symptomatic and
then undergo a further decline in IQ when the illness sets in, typically
during young adulthood. Unfortunately, only a minority ever achieve
gainful employment. In contrast to Yates, fewer than half marry or
raise families. Some 15 percent reside for long periods in state or
county mental health facilities, and another 15 percent end up incarcerated
for petty crimes and vagrancy. Roughly 60 percent live in poverty,
with one in 20 ending up homeless. Because of poor social support,
more individuals with schizophrenia become victims than perpetrators
of violent crime. "
DANIEL C. JAVITT and JOSEPH T. COYLE have studied schizophrenia for
many years. Javitt is director of the Program in Cognitive Neuroscience
and Schizophrenia at the Nathan Kline Institute for Psychiatric Research
in Orangeburg, N.Y., and professor of psychiatry at the New York University
School of Medicine. His paper demonstrating that the glutamate-blocking
drug PCP reproduces the symptoms of schizophrenia was the second-most
cited schizophrenia publication of the 1990s. Coyle is Eben S. Draper
Professor of Psychiatry and Neuroscience at Harvard Medical School
and also editor in chief of the Archives of General Psychiatry. Both
authors have won numerous awards for their research. Javitt and Coyle
hold independent patents for use of NMDA modulators in the treatment
of schizophrenia, and Javitt has significant financial interests in
Medifoods and Glytech, companies attempting to develop glycine and
D-serine as treatments for schizophrenia.
For the Full Article - go to:
Out of the Asylum, into the Cell
By Sally Satel, M.D.
A new report by Human Rights Watch has found that American
prisons and jails contain three times more mentally ill people than
do our psychiatric hospitals. The study confirmed what mental health
and corrections experts have long known: incarceration has become
the nation's default mental health treatment. And while the report
offers good suggestions on how to help those who are incarcerated,
a bigger question is what we can do to keep them from ending up behind
bars at all.
The Los Angeles County jail, with 3,400 mentally ill
prisoners, functions as the largest psychiatric inpatient institution
in the United States. New York's Rikers Island, with 3,000 mentally
ill inmates, is second. According to the Justice Department, roughly
16 percent of American inmates have serious psychiatric illnesses
like schizophrenia, manic-depressive illness and disabling depression.
Life on the inside is a special nightmare for these
inmates. They are targets of cruel manipulation and of physical and
sexual abuse. Bizarre behavior, like responding to imaginary voices
or self-mutilation, can get them punished--and the usual penalty,
solitary confinement, only worsens hallucinations and delusions.
How did we get here? Actually, with the best of intentions.
Forty years ago yesterday, President John F. Kennedy
signed the Community Mental Health Centers Act, under which large
state hospitals for the mentally ill would give way to small community
clinics. He said of the law that the "reliance on the cold mercy
of custodial isolation will be supplanted by the open warmth of community
concern and capability."
Kennedy was acting in response to a genuine shift in
attitudes toward the mentally ill during the postwar years. The public
and lawmakers had become aware of the dreadful conditions in the state
hospitals, largely though exposes like Albert Deutsch's book The Shame
of the States and popular entertainment like the movie The Snake Pit,
both of which appeared in 1948. In addition, Thorazine, an anti-psychotic
medication, became available in the mid-50's and rendered many patients
calm enough for discharge.
Between Kennedy's signing of the mental health law in
1963 and its expiration in 1980, the number of patients in state mental
hospitals dropped by about 70 percent. But asylum reform had a series
of unintended consequences. The nation's 700 or so community mental
health centers could not handle the huge numbers of fragile patients
who had been released after spending months or years in the large
There were not enough psychiatrists and health workers
willing to roll up their sleeves and take on these tough cases. Closely
supervised treatment, community-supported housing and rehabilitation
were given short shrift. In addition, civil liberties law gained momentum
in the 70's and made it unreasonably hard for judges to commit patients
who relapsed but refused care. Those discharged from state hospitals
were often caught in a revolving door, quickly failing in the community
and going back to the institution. And they were the lucky ones--many
others ended up living in flop-houses, on the streets or, as Human
Rights Watch has reminded us, in prison.
Reforms like segregating mentally ill prisoners in treatment
units would help. Of course, the ultimate solution is keeping psychotic
people whose criminal infractions are a product of their sickness
out of jails in the first place. This requires a two-part approach.
The first entails repairing a terribly fragmented mental health care
system. The most important change would be liberating states from
the straitjacket of federal regulations surrounding the use of money
from Medicaid and Medicare--programs that account for two-thirds of
every public dollar spent on the mentally ill.
These regulations force many states to make rigid rules
dictating what services will and won't be reimbursed, which forces
practitioners and administrators to perform bureaucratic gymnastics
to circumvent them. For example, Medicaid will not pay for clinicians
who provide "assertive community treatment"--a system in
which professionals work as a team, making home visits, checking on
medication and helping patients with practical day-to-day demands.
Yet such teams have been proved to reduce re-hospitalization rates
by up to 80 percent.
Relaxing regulations would be great progress in helping
those mentally ill people who seek treatment. Unfortunately, about
half of all untreated people with psychotic illness do not recognize
that there is anything wrong with them. Thus the second part of any
sensible reform would be finding ways to help patients who have a
consistent pattern of rejecting voluntary care, going off medication,
spiraling into self-destruction or becoming a danger to others.
One approach is encouraging their cooperation with "treatment
through leverage." This process, not new but underused, involves
making social welfare benefits, like subsidized housing and Social
Security disability benefits, conditional to participation in treatment.
A more formal approach is to have civil courts order
people to enter community treatment. New York State's Kendra's Law,
named in memory of a woman killed in 1999 after being pushed into
the path of a subway train by a man with schizophrenia, is a good
model. From 1999 to 2002, about 2,400 people spent at least six months
in mandatory community treatment under the law.
And for those who end up committing crimes, some states
have developed special mental-health courts that can use the threat
of jail to keep minor offenders with psychosis in treatment and on
medication at least long enough for the offenders to make informed
decisions about treatment. Such efforts may get help from Washington:
last Monday the Senate approved a bill authorizing $200 million for
states to develop more mental-health courts and other services for
nonviolent, mentally ill offenders; it awaits action in the House.
For many thousands of mentally ill people, America has
failed to make good on John F. Kennedy's promise of 40 years ago.
Releasing them from the large state institutions was only a first
step. Now we must do what we can to free them from the "cold
mercy" that comes with criminalizing mental illness.
Sally Satel, a psychiatrist and resident scholar at
the American Enterprise Institute, is coauthor of the forthcoming
One Nation Under Therapy.
Source: American Enterprise Institute
U.S. Senate Passes Mentally Ill Offender
Treatment and Crime Reduction Act
(New York, November 5, 2003) Human Rights Watch welcomes the U.S.
Senates passage on October 29, 2003 of the Mentally Ill Offender
Treatment and Crime Reduction Act. Introduced in the Senate by Senator
Mike Dewine (R-Ohio), the bipartisan bill was cosponsored by Senators
Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Maria Cantwell (D-WA), Pete Domenici (R-NM),
Charles Grassley (R-IA), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT). The legislation authorizes
federal grants to support collaborations between mental health, criminal
justice, juvenile justice, and corrections systems to reduce the number
of mentally ill offenders in the criminal justice system, to improve
the mental health care received by those who are incarcerated, and
to increase the number of transitional and discharge programs to help
reduce the rate of recidivism of mentally ill offenders discharged
from prison and jail.
Human Rights Watch urges enactment of the Mentally Ill Offender Treatment
and Crime Reduction Act. The legislation reflects a realization that
a criminal justice approach, and particularly incarceration, may be
both unnecessary and counterproductive in many cases of nonviolent
misconduct by persons with mental illness. In addition, the legislation
moves beyond a purely punitive approach to conditions in prisons and
jails, recognizing that individuals as well as society are best served
when those mentally ill offenders who are behind bars are provided
necessary mental health services and programs while incarcerated and
post-release support upon release.
U.S. Representative Ted Strickland (D-OH) introduced the bill in
the House. With passage by the Senate, Human Rights Watch hopes the
House of Representatives will move swiftly to pass it. We urge people
to write their representatives to urge them to support the Mentally
Ill Offenders Treatment and Crime Reduction Act.
REPORT: Ill-Equipped: U.S. Prisons and Offenders with Mental Illness
HRW Report, November 5, 2003
Ill Offender Treatment and Crime Reduction Act (Note: Large PDF
File - slow to download)
As introduced in U.S. Senate, June 5, 2003
wiring in the brain may cause early-onset schizophrenia
CHICAGO Using diffusion tensor imaging (DTI) to
look into the brains of children with schizophrenia, researchers
have discovered abnormalities in the white matter of the
frontal lobe that disrupt the transmission of signals regulating
behavior, according to a study presented today at the 89th
Scientific Assembly and Annual Meeting of the Radiological
Society of North America (RSNA).
"Until now there's been no sophisticated method of
finding abnormalities in the white matter of the brain,"
said the study's lead author Manzar Ashtari, Ph.D., associate
professor of radiology and psychiatry at North Shore-Long
Island Jewish Health System and Albert Einstein College
of Medicine in New York. "Conventional magnetic resonance
(MR) imaging is limited in its ability to reveal brain myelination,
but DTI enables us to measure the myelination process."
Myelin is the covering of nerve bundles that protects neurons
and increases their transmission efficiency. The accumulation
of myelin around these neurons is called myelination. In
the human developmental process, myelination correlates
with maturing patterns of behavior. In patients with schizophrenia,
the cells that carry out the process of myelination are
Myelination activity is at its strongest during the teen
years. "This is a critical time for adolescents who
are still maturing emotionally," Dr. Ashtari said.
"During the myelination process, microstructural damage
to developing white matter fiber tracts may lead to developmental
abnormalities. These are the types of abnormalities we observed
in the frontal white matter regions in the children with
DTI can identify white matter abnormalities before major
symptoms are apparent. "Our goal is to detect and treat
this disease early, so we can stop the progression before
full-fledged symptoms develop," Dr. Ashtari said.
Co-authoring the study with Drs. Ashtari and Kumra are
Marjorie McMeniman, Ph. D., Joshua Vogel, Alan Sloan Diamond,
M.D., and Philip Szeszko, Ph.D.
Drug Implant Offers New
Hope for People with Schizophrenia
By Ellen Barry, Globe Staff, 9/26/2003
" Researchers said yesterday that they are prepared to seek
FDA approval of a surgically implanted tablet that could deliver daily
doses of psychiatric medication for as long as a year.
The implants might revolutionize treatment of chronic mental illnesses
like schizophrenia, which now require patients to take daily cocktails
of powerful medications.
For some, the implant of haloperidol, a powerful antipsychotic drug,
promises to stop the destructive spirals of psychosis that occur when
patients stop taking medication because of side effects, logistical
barriers, or lapses in memory. But patients' rights advocates say
that implants of psychiatric medication would give the state coercive
power unmatched since the age of the lobotomy.
Dr. Steven Siegel, the University of Pennsylvania researcher who
is leading the development of the implant, gathered with advocates
yesterday to debate its impact on the rights of people with mental
"This is very doable technology," said Siegel, director
of the Stanley Center for Experimental Therapeutics in Psychiatry.
"It's not the science that is limiting. If there really is interest,
then I think drug companies and other groups" would be happy
to move forward with implants.
The implant consists of a biodegradable polymer disk about 1 centimeter
in diameter and 1 millimeter thick, which would be inserted during
a 15-minute outpatient surgical procedure, he said.
The disk, which could also contain antidepressants or other medications,
gradually disappears over the course of a year, slowly releasing the
drug as it dissolves.
If the patient needed to be taken off the drug, its effects would
immediately cease when the tablet was removed, Siegel added. Currently,
the nearest alternative is an antipsychotic injection, which is not
reversible and lasts for only a month.
Siegel said he envisions that the implant would be used only on a
voluntary basis, by people who have made the decision to accept medication
for a year.
But Jonathon Stanley, a lawyer and activist whose parents founded
the Stanley Foundation after he became severely psychotic as a young
man, said he sees the implant as useful only for people who refuse
"I would not get [an implant] right now, because I sometimes
change the [dosage] a little" to adjust to mood, said Stanley,
who has pushed for tougher laws compelling people to take psychiatric
But he said he could have used an implant as a young man, when "the
only reason I was able to take my pills was because my parents were
there watching me like a 2-year-old."
Excerpted from: The Boston Globe, 9.26.3003
More info on Schizophrenia Drug Delivery Implant
This drug delivery system may not be developed if people don't let
the University of Pennsylvania know that this is a valuable addition
to the options available for treatment of schizophrenia.
Note: I see this as good news for helping the many people who have
schizophrenia and who - because of the damage to the brain caused
by schizophrenia - find it very difficult to remember to take medications
on a regular basis. This effort is supported by the Stanley Research
Foundation - a leading Non-profit that supports a great deal of schizophrenia
research to improve treatment for people with schizophrenia. - Editor.
For More information on this new drug delivery system - see:
For more information on the Stanley Foundation Schizophrenia Research
State Lawmakers Preview Award-Winning Documentary
of Artist's Struggle With Schizophrenia at NCSL Annual Health Policy
12/10/03 6:02:00 PM
WASHINGTON, Dec. 10 /U.S. Newswire/ -- Artist John Cadigan today
shared his story of his struggle with schizophrenia with more than
400 members of the National Council of State Legislatures, comprised
of state legislators and staff from across the country at their annual
Fall Forum to discuss health policy. In an effort to challenge existing
negative stereotypes about those who struggle with severe mental illnesses,
Cadigan filmed his life for over 10 years.
Cadigan's story came to life at the NCSL's annual Fall Forum through
a preview of excerpts from the artist's documentary, People Say I'm
Crazy. The documentary has been sweeping film festivals throughout
North America, winning major awards such as the Humanitarian Award
at the Vancouver International Film Festival and the Best Documentary
award at the Chicago International Film Festival. The documentary
has recently been purchased by HBO/Cinemax for airing in summer 2004.
In addition to the preview, Cadigan's unique art depicting his vision
was also displayed at the NCSL meeting. A relief printmaker, Cadigan
has exhibited his woodcuts in galleries and museums nationwide.
"Society turns away from those who suffer from mental illnesses
such as schizophrenia," Cadigan said. "Fifty-five million
Americans suffer from some form of mental illness. It is important
that we foster understanding within society that these are brain disorders
and these disorders can be successfully treated, so there is hope
for people to return to productive lives."
As states confront the worst budget shortfalls since World War II,
investment in mental health services is in great jeopardy. According
to the National Mental Health Association (NMHA), nearly two-thirds
of states cut funding for mental health services in 2002.
"States can choose to invest in effective, community-based services
or pay a greater price through increased emergency room visits, homelessness
and an overburdened criminal justice system," said Senator Peter
Knudson, assistant majority whip for the Utah State Senate and emcee
of the event. "John Cadigan's story shows us how important it
is to provide timely and appropriate treatment for those who suffer
from mental health disorders."
"The search for appropriate treatment was extremely difficult
for my family and me," Cadigan said. "My story is not unique,
but sharing it puts a face on the thousands of other sufferers out
there who need timely and effective care. We must encourage decision
makers to dramatically improve the quality and availability of mental
health services which saves society an enormous amount of taxpayer
resources in the long term."
Cadigan, now 33, was diagnosed with schizophrenia in 1991 while he
was a senior at Carnegie Mellon University. From the beginning of
his illness, he decided to document his experiences on film. His sister,
Katie Cadigan, a professional documentary film producer and director
who has taught film at Stanford University, used her knowledge to
teach John how to film himself so that he could explore what was happening
The film follows Cadigan and his family as he battles schizophrenia,
and captures his setbacks and milestones on his journey to build a
stable life. Cadigan's blunt honesty helps audiences to understand
the overwhelming challenges facing those with severe mental illnesses.
The film was made possible in part through a grant from the National
Endowment for the Arts, and through an unrestricted educational grant
from AstraZeneca as part of its commitment to foster greater understanding
and compassion about mental illness.
People Say I'm Crazy was co-produced by Academy Award winning producer
Ira Wohl. The film is scheduled for theatrical release in New York
in April 2004. It is currently in educational distribution.
For more information about People Say I'm Crazy, log onto http://www.peoplesayimcrazy.org