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Sue Bradford would do anything to help a friend. Now her husband, Ian, is ensuring her caring spirit is memorialised through a fund in her name.

The Sue Bradford Memorial Fund was launched on World Bipolar Day (30 March) – a day that aims to increase awareness, acceptance, and funding for this illness. Bipolar is a life-long mental health illness marked by depressive and manic episodes. One in every 20 New Zealanders suffer from bipolar disorder in their lifetime; one in 100 with a severe form of the illness.

The Sue Bradford Memorial Fund has been established thanks to a $500,000 gift to Māia Health Foundation by Ian Bradford and family. A research programme led by a team at The University of Otago, Christchurch, has been chosen as the Fund’s recipient – a gift of $100,000 a year for the next five years. The programme will advance research into practical therapies for the treatment of bipolar disorder.

Sue Bradford suffered from bipolar from her late teens, and Ian says while their 50-year marriage was filled with many happy moments, there were difficult times.

“Largely we had an incredibly happy life together, but with Sue’s bipolar there were times when there were big ups and downs, and we couldn’t anticipate when those times would happen. Bipolar is a very complex illness, and for the person suffering and their family it can be very isolating. This Fund is a way of remembering Sue in an authentic, enduring way that will positively impact the lives of others.

“Sue was such a caring person and I really feel she would be proud of this Fund and what it will achieve. If this research can help ease the burden for just one person or one family, it would make me so happy,” says Ian.

Māia CE Michael Flatman says it was a privilege to work with Ian to identify a project that resonated with Sue’s story and the wishes of Ian and his family to make a positive difference to everyday people and families living with bipolar.

“We are inspired by Ian’s generosity and his desire to honour Sue in a way that will improve the lives of others. We are delighted to announce the establishment of the Sue Bradford Memorial Fund, bringing Ian’s vision to life and memorialising Sue in a way that will make a difference for our community today and into the future,” says Michael.

General Manager of Specialist Mental Health Services at the Canterbury District Health Board Greg Hamilton says Ian’s gift is so incredible as it raises awareness of bipolar while enabling research that will make an immediate and real difference to those living with this condition.

“We place an incredibly high value on the interface between research and practice which means that ongoing research is vital to the continual improvement of our service. The Sue Bradford Memorial Fund will have immediate as well as future benefits. Those involved in the research today will access innovations in care and treatment, with the results of the research then embedded into our treatments and services, so we can provide the very best, modern, and evidence-based care to our community,” says Greg.

The University of Otago’s Christchurch-based Department of Psychological Medicine, in conjunction with the Canterbury DHB’s Specialist Mental Health Service, has run four bipolar disorder trials involving around 100 patients. Professor Richard Porter, who leads that research programme, says the donation from the Sue Bradford Memorial Fund will enable them to complete the fourth study and launch a fifth, as well as expanding research in two areas.

“Families of people with bipolar disorder are incredibly vital in supporting their loved ones through this illness”, Professor Porter says. “That’s why the extraordinary generosity of Ian Bradford and his family in establishing the Sue Bradford Memorial Fund is so meaningful.

“This donation will give our research unit the financial security to continue our ongoing work into this extremely challenging and important area of research, work which has the potential to relieve suffering for so many battling this long-term and debilitating illness.”

Ian says particularly in the last 10 years of Sue’s life they had incredible support from the team at Hillmorton Hospital.

“Sue’s caseworker and her psychiatrist were exceptional – they deserve a medal for the care and support they provided Sue and our family.”

That care team was Medical Officer in Psychiatry Dorothea Schirgel and Case Manager Shane Martin. Dorothea remembers Sue fondly, describing her as always smiling and having genuine care for others.

“While there’s an increasing awareness of mental wellbeing, there’s not necessarily increased awareness of or investment in chronic mental health challenges, such as bipolar. I was amazed when I heard about Ian’s gift and I believe Sue would be so happy, as it will make a very real difference to the lives of many,” says Dorothea.

Ian says he hopes his gift will inspire others.

“My vision is that our family’s $500,000 will act as a catalyst for others to donate to the Fund, so we can create an even bigger resource to enable continuing research and support for those living with bipolar, their families, and our mental health workforce,” says Ian.

Michael Flatman says a very special part of his job is to work with individuals to create their own legacy or to preserve the memory of a loved one.

“Many people find peace and security in the knowledge that their legacy, or that of a loved one, will live on, making a long-term impact on the future of our community. We’re delighted that we’ve been able to support Ian to ensure Sue’s legacy is enduring and that 100% of his donated funds will go towards Ian’s vision for the future,” says Michael.

You can give to the Sue Bradford Memorial Fund here >> Give Now

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