Former Mental Patients Suing Hospitals Over Electroshock

I was surprised to come across this tidbit of information today. It’s from an article in Stuff, a New Zealand rag, Shock treatment ‘needed’.

The retired Timaru woman has every reason to have an opinion on the 250 former psychiatric patients who are suing psychiatric hospitals throughout New Zealand over their treatment and the use of ECT. Miss Lister also received the treatment, but her views of it are very different to those taking the legal action.

New Zealand has 250 former patients to take on electro-shock!? If it didn’t have much of a survivor movement in the past, it certainly has one now.

The news media picks up on one woman who didn’t mind ECT so much, but preferred LSD. She goes back to the time when they experimented with that substance legally on psychiatric patients. There are, let’s see, at least 250 people out there with harsher views on the subject of ECT.

I did a little Google search of my own to see what this is all about, and one thing is for certain, if anything is going on here, the press don’t seem to have picked up on it yet. I did find an earlier more balanced article in Stuff again, Electroconvulsive therapy endures.

Women receive ECT nearly twice as much as men do, and elderly women receive the most. Reasons for this could include loneliness and isolation, specialists say.

You don’t mean those elderly women, already at a risk for Alzheimers and dementia, do you?

Why do I call them survivors?

Memory returns within six weeks after treatment for 95 per cent of patients, but “it might take a bit longer” for the other 5 per cent, she [psychiatrist Pamela Melding] says. The greatest risk was to people with cardiovascular problems, but this was monitored and considered before treatment. Muscle pains, ringing in the ears, headaches and nausea are other adverse effects.

A certain number of these patients die during the procedure. Shock, coupled with cardiovascular problems, for instance, can produce a cadaver.

My feeling is that this lack of coverage has something to do with the way mental patients and former mental patients are treated in general.

“We will look back on ECT as we now look back on lobotomies.”

Such were the concluding sentiments of University of Auckland psychologist and researcher John Read.

Having seen the ups and downs of the movement against shock in this country, the USA, I would say celebrating is still a bit premature. I would also wager that the eclipse won‘t happen without direct action, but the good news is at least New Zealanders have the people to make a start at changing things for the better where people facing mental health treatment are concerned in their homeland.