Otsuka and Lundbeck, developers of the schizophrenia drug, Abilify Maintena, approached us with a communications brief for a public affairs programme which would make a difference to the lives of more than 26 million people worldwide living with schizophrenia. 

H+K recognized the need to go beyond the more traditional route of patient education, and focused the campaign on informal carers of those living with schizophrenia or psychosis, based on the fundamental insight that in this condition patients are often heavily compromised and find the tasks of daily living and social interaction hard, and therefore the carer was critically important. Otsuka Lundbeck agreed.

This fundamental insight led H+K to develop ‘The Carer Academy’, an initiative aimed specifically at carers of people living with schizophrenia. The course had a clear focus on education and skills training for informal carers, to help them manage their role better, maintain their own health and thus create a stronger supportive environment for patients. The development of this accredited educational course was a bold move, not least because informal carers are often socially isolated and difficult to reach.

We identified and brought together the academic course developers King’s College London, with Open University’s MOOC platform provider, FutureLearn and, in collaboration with the global network of EUFAMI (European Federation of Associations of Families of People with Mental Illness), created a 2-week accredited open course, ‘Caring for People with Psychosis and Schizophrenia’, for family carers all over the world.

Caring for People with Psychosis and Schizophrenia is the first online free educational course developed for carers. This hugely successful course attracted nearly 17,000 participants, 8500% more than a cautious estimate of 250, and is set to run again in 2016.