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Home / Events / Festivals / Finding Sanity: John Cade, Lithium and the Taming of Bipolar Disorder.

Finding Sanity: John Cade, Lithium and the Taming of Bipolar Disorder.

Willy Lit Fest

Event Date: 17 June 2017
Author / Presenters: Lucia Nardo, Ann Westmore, Greg de Moore

Australian doctor John Cade changed the course of medicine with his discovery of lithium, yet most people have never heard of him. Humble, quietly passionate, and committed to those suffering mental illness in a time when it was largely untreatable, the story of his search for answers is as fascinating as Cade himself.

In 1946 John was a man in a hurry. Later in life he wrote: “I returned from three and a half years as a POW of the Japanese mourning the wasted years and determined to pursue the ideas that had germinated in that interminable time.”

Lithium is to mental health what penicillin is to general medicine yet few people know that behind the discovery of this gold standard treatment for the mental illness bipolar disorder was an Australian doctor, John Cade. While a prisoner of war, Cade came to theorise a connection between brain chemistry and mental illness. In 1948, he began his experiments in a disused kitchen, work that eventually led to millions of people around the globe being able to manage their illness.

Join Lucia Nardo at Williamstown Literary Festival as she discusses the man, his discovery, and the emerging world of modern psychiatry with Greg de Moore and Ann Westmore, co-authors of Finding Sanity: John Cade, Lithium and the Taming of Bipolar Disorder.

About the book –

The first biography of the ground breaking Australian doctor who discovered the first pharmacological treatment for mental illness. For most of human history, mental illness has been largely untreatable. Sufferers lived their lives – if they survived – in and out of asylums, accumulating life’s wreckage around them.

In 1948, all that changed when an Australian doctor and recently returned prisoner of war, working alone in a disused kitchen, set about an experimental treatment for one of the scourges of mankind – manic depression, or bipolar disorder. That doctor was John Cade and in that small kitchen he stirred up a miracle.

John Cade discovered a treatment that has become the gold standard for bipolar disorder – lithium.

Lithium is the penicillin story of mental health – the first effective medication discovered for the treatment of a mental illness – and it is, without doubt, Australia’s greatest mental health story.

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