Debut author Nathan Filer won Britain's Costa Book Award on Tuesday for his novel "The Shock of the Fall", which draws on his experience as a mental health nurse, AFP reports.
Filer, 32, said he felt "a bit emotional" as he accepted the £30,000 ($47,000, 35,000 euro) prize at a London ceremony, adding it was "a real honour" to have been nominated.
Novelist Rose Tremain, chair of the judging panel, called it an "astonishingly sure-footed" attempt for a first novel.
"It is not just about schizophrenia -- it is about grief," she said.
"This book stood out in a very good list. The voice in which the author has chosen to tell his story is perfectly aligned with the subject matter and very well sustained to the end.
"The book is exceptionally moving without being sentimental -- we're very much hoping there will be more from this writer," added Tremain.
Filer explained of his novel: "I didn't set out to write about mental illness or schizophrenia, I set out to write about this character and his illness is one aspect of his character and there are many more than that".
The winner beat off competition from top-selling novelist and pre-award favourite Kate Atkinson, Lucy Hughes-Hallett, poet Michael Symmons Roberts and Chris Riddell, for his children's book "Goth Girl And The Ghost Of A Mouse."
Filer is a writer and lecturer in Creative Writing at Bath Spa University in south west England, and for many years worked for the city's mental health service.
The Costa Book Award, formerly the Whitbread Literary Awards, was established in 1971 to celebrate contemporary British and Irish writing. A panel of writers, actors and broadcasters choose the most enjoyable books from the past year.
It is the first time a debut novel has won the award since Stef Penney's The Tenderness of Wolves in 2006.
Hilary Mantel's "Bring Up The Bodies" won last year's prize.