Manic-depressive illness affects an estimated 47 to 97 million people worldwide—or 1 to 2 percent of the world's 5 billion people—regardless of culture or society. At a time when the chemical basis of mental illness was not understood, Dr. Schou demonstrated, in an impeccable series of controlled clinical trials, that when patients in the manic phase of manic-depressive illness were given the simple compound lithium carbonate, their mental state returned to normal.
Dr. Schou also observed that when the patients continued to take lithium, they experienced fewer, and less severe, attacks of the illness. He also discovered that lithium could prevent the depressions associated with manic-depressive illness, and later showed that lithium could prevent depression not associated with mania.
With the remarkable success of lithium as an example, physicians and scientists were prompted to search for additional drugs to treat other mental disorders, and to explore the chemical mechanisms of normal and abnormal brain activity. The medical treatment of mental illness has made psychotherapy and other strategies more effective and has restored millions of patients to active, fulfilling, and productive lives.
To Dr. Schou, whose profound influence on the treatment of mental disease has extended far beyond the powerful impact of lithium on manic-depressive illness and depression, this 1987 Albert Lasker Clinical Medical Research Award is given.