Review: Finding Sanity

The story of lithium is the remarkable story of the penicillin of mental health: without doubt it is Australia’s greatest mental health story.

Selected by The Australian Spectator as one of the best books of 2016, Finding Sanity tells the story of John Cade and his 1948 discovery of the use of lithium as a treatment for bipolar disorder.

Lithium became the first specific medication for treating severe mental illness. John Cade, a Melbourne Medical School graduate and recently-returned prisoner of war, stumbled across its utility as part of experiments that began with the examination of urine from patients with mania, extended to observations of the effects of lithium on guinea pigs and on himself, and concluded
with its prescription to patients and their
long-term monitoring.

Finding Sanity had its origins as the PhD of Dr Ann Westmore (BSc 1973, MSc 1994, PhD 2002), an historian of medicine, and the curiosity of Dr Greg de Moore (MBBS 1982), a psychiatrist who had become aware of Dr Cade’s ‘slim but remarkable book Mending the Mind’ as a fifth-year medical student at the Royal Melbourne Hospital.

Together these authors trace Dr Cade’s life and the path to his remarkable discovery, weaving a fascinating narrative about the history of mental health in Australia and the role of a sensitive and intelligent man who changed the face of medicine through his determination to ease the suffering
of his patients.