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Bipolar Australians are needed for study



Bipolar Australians are urged to volunteer for the world's largest study of chronic disorders.

The researchers called on 5,000 Australians who were subjected to mental illness treatment to help spread their genetic code in an attempt to revolutionize treatment and find a cure.

The national call, released on Tuesday, is backed by federal Health Minister Greg Hunt – whose mother lived with bipolar disorder – and advocate for mental health, such as former Volaba Enrique Topo Rodriguez.

Australian genetics of bipolar disorder is hoping to identify genes that predispose people to bipolar disorder and how it affects their drug response.

Participants will be asked to provide a sample of saliva for DNA analysis and respond to the online questionnaire.

Professor Co-researcher Nick Martin says the researchers hope the results will mean more effective, personalized drugs and treatments.

"It will save many patients who suffer and will save many government funds for drugs that are subsidized," he told AAP.

Unlike depression, which can sometimes be treated without medication, the drug supports the treatment of almost all people with bipolar disorder, along with other life interventions, he said.

It is not known exactly what causes a condition affecting about one-in-50 Australians, but genetics account for 70 percent of the risk, scientists say.

Those living with the disease are 15 times more likely to commit suicide than the general population and account for 25 per cent of all suicides.

Sydneysider Alex Pettigrew says he struggled with a disorder during high school, while diagnosis and correct medication helped him manage his life.

The 22-year-old music composer spent years with depressing and manic times and causing damage to himself, especially when he was tortured to school.

Mr Pettigrew, who says he never took drugs and did not drink alcohol, felt "high" during his manly heights and "would throw out the music" of his piano.

"I do not remember much, the medications I took did make me forget about many things … I remember that there were really bad times," he told AAP.

Now, the combination of diagnosis and accurate drugs meant that he could live a normal life, fulfilling his ambitions for a music career while working at a children's center in Sydney.

"I do not need free time when I'm not well, there are many times a year when I have some psychotic symptoms," he said.

"I have an action plan and I know what I need to do to get back good again."

He hoped that talking would encourage others to join the study, but more importantly give other young people bipolar disorder a certain hope.

"Men keep things for so long, they can do a lot of damage," he said.

"It took me so long to finally open up and tell somebody that's going on."

People can volunteer in the study at www.geneticsofbipolar.org.au.

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