John Pringle was a journalist who wrote for several newspaper, including the Times, Telegraph, Listener and Guardian.
His leading article, 'A Case of Schizophrenia, by a Correspondent', which appeared in the Times of May 9th 1970, was read with relief and a sense of liberation by many relatives and professionals.
Simply by using the term 'schizophrenia' openly, he began to decrease its stigma. He dared to describe the effect on the daily and nightly environment of a family, and he totally rejected the theory that parental failure was the cause. He also underlined the difficulties caused by the closure of the large hospitals before high-class replacement facilities had been put into place. He knew that, to be successful, a new organisation would have to be solidly based, from the beginning, on the active participation of relatives. He received some 400 replies.
From the large response to the Times leader, John Pringle invited members of six families from different parts of the country to meet his wife Jacqueline and himself at an exploratory meeting. This was held in the Board room of the Wellcome Foundation on 25th July 1970. Including the Pringles, fifteen people were present.
A 7-page document, 'The problem before us, some tentative thoughts', had been prepared in advance. It was a brilliant but highly condensed examination of thiings that were currently wrong, and of the work that would be needed in order to put them right. The first item on the agenda, 'That a national society for schizophrenia was desirable', was agreed. The Group suggested the name 'The National Schizophrenia Society'.
Over two years after the original Times article, the Fellowship was established as a charitable trust in July 1972.
In January 1974, the name was changed to 'The National Schizophrenia Fellowship' and the first general London meeting was held under the new name. About 140 members from all over the country met at the Overseas League. The enthusiasm engendered by the Times articles, and the subsequent formation of the National Schizophrenia Fellowship, resulted in a tremendous burst of activity throughout the country as local groups were formed to provide mutual support, and began the fight for better quality diagnosis and care. From the outset, priority was given to discovering, and trying to meet, the needs for help and specific information identified by sufferers and their families. Above all, the relevant professions, public authorities and government departments had to be made fully aware of the nature of the parents' and other carers' roles and the urgent need to help to cope with the problems and needs of sufferers.
In the early days, the income was derived from the generoity of donors and subscriptions from members.
By November 1973, membership had grown to 3000.
By mid-1975, a survey of relatives' problems had been published and was well received, providing good publicity and even a small profit.
By 1980, NSF was close to full-grown. Finances were respectable and membership at 3000 was increasing. There was a hunger for information, and NSF branches were forming throughout the country. Carers and users alike were starved of information about the nature of schizophrenia and how to reduce disability and relieve distress.
NSF first became involved with Parliament in 1982, when the Bill amending the 1959 Mental Health Act was introduced. The experience of giving written and oral evidence to the Special Standing Committee and the related contacts with MPs and Peers ready to learn about mental illness were to be invaluable in later years.
NSF opened the Godalming Bookshop in 1985, which was later extended to an employment project. In the same year, the World Schizophrenia Fellowship was launched under NSF auspices.
In 1992, NSF joined family associations from 11 other countries in signing the founding document of EUFAMI, the european Federation of Associations of Mentally Ill people.
In 1984, NSF Scotland became a separate charity.
In 2003, Hafal became independent.
As of 2nd July 2002 'Rethink' is the new operating name for the 'National Schizophrenia Fellowship' and has almost 400 mental health services in England and Northern Ireland.