History Medicine Mental Health Psychiatry
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. It has stopped more people from committing suicide than a thousand help lines.
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.