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SIRS Statements

A Solidarity and Advocacy Statement from SIRS: Commitment of support to the global schizophrenia research community in this time of crisis

25 May 2021

Dear SIRS Community,

The Executive Officers of the Schizophrenia International Research Society wish to express our sympathy for the thousands of people in India, Brazil, and other parts of the world who are currently struggling with a surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. The Society stands in solidarity with our colleagues who are working tirelessly to provide care to their patients, and whose expertise is crucial to meet the enormous challenges posed by this crisis, as well as with our many members who have families and friends there.

This pandemic highlights the need for members of the healthcare and academic community to advocate and stand, not only with our colleagues, but also with the individuals affected by mental health problems, their families, and their carers across the world. As a global community of mental health researchers, clinicians, students, and people with lived experiences, we have a shared and individual responsibility to advocate for the needs of individuals with mental health problems in the management of the COVID-19 infection and in vaccine policies. The pandemic has created unprecedented global challenges and disheartening recent data (Nemani et al, 2021) show that a diagnosis of schizophrenia ranks only behind age as the greatest risk factor for COVID-19 death.

Vaccines have given us hope that we will beat COVID-19, but only if we ensure that everyone has equal access globally to the vaccine. As stated by UN Under-Secretary-General for Global Communications, Melissa Fleming, “If the world’s scientists were able to develop safe and effective vaccines in just seven months, the aims of world’s leaders must be equally record-breaking – to provide enough funding and to ramp up manufacturing to enable everyone on earth to be vaccinated.” (“UN launches new campaign,” 2021) We must all therefore work collaboratively and tirelessly to support individuals with a diagnosis of schizophrenia with vaccine prioritization and equity of access.

Our mission and core values support these efforts and, specifically, our commitments to (i) exchange the latest advances in research and facilitate their application into clinical practice and treatment and (ii) increase the public understanding of the personal, familial, and societal impact on people with the diagnosis of schizophrenia and related disorders.

We must never lose sight of the impact this pandemic can inflict on people’s lives. Together, we can help dismantle inequality in science and practice, deliver on our values and move forward to a better future.

Yours sincerely,

Dame Til Wykes, President

Merete Nordentoft, President-Elect
Robert Buchanan, Treasurer

Paola Dazzan, Secretary

References

1. Nemani K, Li C, Olfson M, et al. Association of Psychiatric Disorders With Mortality Among Patients With COVID-19. JAMA Psychiatry. 2021;78(4):380–386. doi:10.1001/jamapsychiatry.2020.4442

2. UN launches new campaign, Only Together, to support global vaccine equity call. (2021, March 11). Retrieved from https://www.un.org/africarenewal/news/un-launches-new-campaign-only-together-support-global-vaccine-equity-call

Other Statements

Commitment to Anti-Racism, Diversity and Inclusivity - 18 June 2020

Dear SIRS Community,

The senseless killing of Mr. George Floyd and other members of the minority community has once again raised the issue of systematic racism. This time the Schizophrenia International Research Society aims for action and not just words. Racism is a public health emergency; it causes long-term psychological harms and illness and affects not only those who we seek to help – people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia – but our community of researchers.

In our efforts to improve our scientific understanding of schizophrenia with the aim of increasing the benefits of treatments and services, the SIRS community must be representative of the communities we seek to help. We have made some progress, but still not enough, on gender discrimination. We now need to commit to actions that will reduce other sources of discrimination, including race.

SIRS affirms a commitment to diversity within our research endeavors so we can understand the effects of structural discrimination and how it affects the onset, maintenance and exacerbation of problems for people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia. This requires us to monitor and report on diversity among our research participants and investigate its effects on our scientific understanding.

We reaffirm our commitment to human rights, equality, and social justice. As a global community of researchers, clinicians, educators, students and people with lived experiences, we have a shared and individual responsibility towards eradicating inequality, discrimination and injustice. We do this not only through our research, but in our everyday life. This can only be done through joint and individual education. Our task is to understand white privilege and eschew white exceptionalism, so we can use this knowledge to improve our research and the ambitions of the community as a whole.

We have already taken some concrete and meaningful steps, including a commitment to anti-racism. But words are not enough. We need to act. So, in developing our next 5-year strategy, the building of an inclusive, diverse and equitable society focused on improving the lives of people with a diagnosis of schizophrenia will be a central theme. The society commits to ensuring that every committee will have representation of women and ethnic minorities, every conference will have plenary speakers from under-represented groups and that all our awards will ensure that diversity is a key consideration, including our new Research Harmonization Award.

Together, we can help dismantle systemic sources of discrimination and inequality in science and practice. Let’s move together towards a better future.

Yours sincerely,

Dame Til Wykes, President
Merete Nordentoft, President-Elect
Lynn DeLisi, Past President
Robert Buchanan, Treasurer
Paola Dazzan, Secretary
Sohee Park, Diversity Task Force Chair

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