What will happen in the field of serious mental illness when human need, scientific progress and a major influx of funding converge? Scientists on Tuesday predicted that the world could see the same kind of progress in understanding schizophrenia and bipolar disorder that’s been seen in the last decade in the fight against cancer.
That, in turn, could lead to better treatments, earlier diagnosis and more opportunities to head off the emergence of full-blown psychological illness in those at greatest risk.
Thirty years ago, I was given a diagnosis of schizophrenia. My prognosis was “grave”: I would never live independently, hold a job, find a loving partner, get married. My home would be a board-and-care facility, my days spent watching TV in a day room with other people debilitated by mental illness. I would work at menial jobs when my symptoms were quiet. Following my last psychiatric hospitalization at the age of 28, I was encouraged by a doctor to work as a cashier making change. If I could handle that, I was told, we would reassess my ability to hold a more demanding position, perhaps even something full-time.