Protesting ECT:
A Moral/Existential Calling


After 14 months…I returned home to a family I had no memory of. I didn’t know how to be a mother to my young sons or a wife for my husband. I had to learn my name, how to speak, do up buttons, brush my teeth and so on. I didn’t even know my own parents, sisters, brothers. My social work career and law aspirations vanished. (public hearing testimony, ECT survivor Wendy Funk, from Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault, tape 1, 2005)

The context of this article is ECT. ECT is a medical procedure.  Correction: a procedure deemed medical. The point here is: despite the fact that it is administered in hospitals by people known as doctors, by any normal understanding of the term, it cannot justifiably be termed “medical,” for such naming presupposes that something is medically wrong with the person and yet there is no proof whatever that such is the case with prospective ECT recipients. That is, there is no edema, no cell deterioration, no irregular readings, no inflammation. Moreover, it presupposes that said medical problem is corrected by the “procedure,” when solid evidence establishes that on the contrary medical problems are thereby created where none existed before (for details see Breggin, 1991).

That understood; what, concretely, is ECT? It is an experimental treatment which involves passing sufficient electricity through the brain to produce a grand mal seizure. How does it work? For most of the history of ECT, doctors who promote it have answered this question with the standard claim that they do not know how it works — only that it works. The latest claim is that they have at long last figured out the answer and that it works by stimulating the production of new brain cells, all of which are healthy (e.g., Abrams, 2002).

Are new brain cells indeed produced? Indeed, they are. However, what professionals making such a claim fail to tell the public is that, overwhelmingly, ECT annihilates brain cells, that the brain cells thereby annihilated were in fact perfectly healthy, and what new brain cells do appear (the phenomenon is called “neurogenesis”) are irregular, the product of brain damage, and are themselves accepted indicators of brain damage (see Zarubenko et al., 2005, and Greenberg, 2007).

That noted, ECT has been proven conclusively to cause extensive brain damage (see Zarubenko et al., 2005) and extensive and enduring cognitive impairment — memory loss in particular (see Breggin 1991 and Sackeim et al., 2007). Moreover, however the so-called therapeutic effect may be theorized, it has been demonstrated to be no more effective than placebo (see, for example, Ross, 2006). Now admittedly, there have been ample studies that report effectiveness. As clearly demonstrated by Read and Bentall (2010) though, such studies are inherently flawed, with, for example, no criterion of improvement provided or improvement being predicated solely on the subjective opinion of caregivers.

Correspondingly, as research like Van Daalen-Smith’s (2011) suggests, there is a dramatic mismatch between the subjective assessment of care-givers and survivors’ self-assessment. What is apropos here; in the weeks following ECT, Van Daalen-Smith interviewed both shock survivors and the nurses caring for them. All of the shock survivors assessed their state as deteriorated, as opposed to all of their nurses, who to a person assessed the condition of these very same “patients” as improved.

Additionally — and not surprisingly, given what has been revealed to date, as Breggin (1991) and Burstow (2015) have demonstrated — there is a one-to-one ratio between the damage done and the so-called therapeutic effect. An added reality which helps one ferret out the truth of what is happening here is that ECT is overwhelmingly given to two particular constituencies — women and the elderly. (For a strong feminist and anti-ageist analysis, see Burstow, 2006) Albeit the largest and most extensive study in ECT history (Sackeim et al., 2007) conclusively establishes that these are the very groups that incur the greatest damage from the procedure.

If the best conducted research invalidates the use of ECT — and as can be seen, it does — personal testimony is at least as damning. Indeed, the history of shock is a history of survivor after survivor testifying that their lives have been devastated, of survivors bearing witness to the inability to remember, to massive cognitive impairment, to inability to carry out even the simplest of jobs (see Burstow, 2006). In short, the best scientific evidence and survivor testimony concur.

What do they show? That ECT is not just slightly but profoundly damaging. That ECT is in essence a diminishment of the person. That, in short, ECT is anything but a valid medical procedure. Now while mounting evidence continues to pour in, these basic facts about ECT have long been known. And yet the treatment continues unabated. Hence the call for abolition. And hence the protests.

I have called this article “Protesting ECT.” If ECT is the ultimate context of this article, the more immediate context is indeed a protest. On May 16, 2015, an international day of protest against ECT is being held. Several months ago, a call was issued by three survivors — Ted Chabasinski in California, Mary Maddock in Ireland, and Debra Schwartzkopff in Oregon — inviting survivors and their allies throughout the world to take part in an international day of protest against electroshock (for details, see Chabasinski, 2015). This article is leveraging the occasion of that protest to focus in on shock protest more generally —its nature, why we should engage in it, what we get from it, and in the process, it probes the still larger question of protest. Questions taken up include: What exactly happens when people protest? What is a protest? Why is it important to protest shock? In itself? In the context of psychiatry as a whole?  And what makes the action currently being planned significant?

To begin with the obvious, it is important to protest ECT precisely because, however it may be theorized or intended, ECT is in its very essence injurious — that is, it is not simply incidentally but is inherently injurious (the fact that it is being done in the name of help, I would add, in no way alters the equation). What is called ECT “working,” to put this another way, is precisely the effects of damage.

Correspondingly, not just the short- but the long-term effects are devastating. When people are being subjected to brain damage, when people are being seriously impeded in their ongoing ability to navigate their lives, when — as so often happens — the memory of even those nearest and dearest is obliterated, when decades later people still have to write notes incessantly to get through the day because of a “procedure” to which they have been subjected, however commonplace or cosmeticized what is happening may be, we are witnessing something violent, something objectionable — that is, something that calls out for protest. In saying this, note I am making a moral claim. At the same time, I am making an existential claim that goes to the heart of what protest is about.

What is protest? If images of marching in the streets come to mind — and for sure, these are examples of protest — and you are tempted to say that it is a formal political challenge, let me suggest that at its core, it is far more basic than that. It is a fundamental dimension of our being-in-the-world and of our being-with-others.  In this respect, protest is a deeply existential phenomenon. It is a way of saying “no,” of saying “I won’t tolerate this.” And note; from our earliest years, even as infants, we have a human need to say “no” when something does not sit right. And indeed, saying “no” at such times is part and parcel of our authentic being-with one another, as it were, of our moral contract.

I am reminded here of the film The Wild Child by François Truffaut. In this film, as a test, the scientist at one point punishes the human creature/child that he had brought in from the wild, albeit well aware that the child had done nothing wrong. What then happened? The child protested. The scientist was reassured at seeing the protest. Leaving aside the inevitable question of the morality of forcing “civilization” upon the child in the first place or even of conducting such tests, why was the scientist reassured? Precisely because such protest signified that the child grasped the basic human covenant which we have with one another, knew that protest was called for, and responded accordingly.

Organized public protest such as the one being planned for May 16 is a variant of this existential dynamic, while turning protest into a collective action which binds people together while reaching more concretely into the public. It is a way of asserting that “we” (whoever the “we” may be) see what is happening as unacceptable; beyond this, that we are joined together in asserting loud and clear that it is unacceptable; moreover, we are appealing to others around us and/or those who may happen upon our protest to see it similarly, to bear witness to something that it outside the realm of what is tolerable, and we are demanding action. Given this latter dimension especially, I would add, there is a clear moral appeal and moral demand at the core of public protest.

I am aware of course that there are people (and no; not movement people) who cannot imagine protesting against those deemed helpers. I would suggest, though, if anything, the fact of the designation just adds to the injury for it means that betrayal of trust is involved. Correspondingly, when damage of such proportions is being done and, indeed, done with no upside, when it is accompanied by systemic deception, moreover, unleashed on vulnerable populations, irrespective of whether or not those engaged in these actions are called helpers or are convinced that they are doing good, why would one not protest?

To clear, I am in no way suggesting that public protest is invariably the best strategy. This notwithstanding, there is an upside to such action even in those instances when in the short run, it appears to bring us no closer to our goals. And that upside is precisely the witnessing engendered, together with the existential and moral factors highlighted above. All of which makes anti-ECT protest intrinsically meaningful.

Now the fact that I am taking this at least seemingly non-strategic position, I am aware, may surprise some, for I am a staunch advocate of strategic activism (see, for example, Burstow, 2014a) and the direction being highlighted here appears to conflict with the call for strategic activism. That noted, let me suggest that the strategic and the existential/relational are not mutually exclusive. In this regard, one may sometimes emphasize one dimension, sometimes the other, and at times one may be able to bring them together. Correspondingly, what is more basic here, while tailoring one’s activities strategically so that they serve our goals (read: morally called-for goals) is an important value, so is standing up and being counted. What is likewise relevant, even when it comes to the question of effectiveness itself, straight line thinking does not always serve us, for we never know when a mode of resistance that appears to have no impact will suddenly become a “game-changer” — such is the power of the existential.

What does this boil down to? It is important to protest shock whether or not such protest can be reasonably judged as likely to be effective. What relates to this, social protest with respect to recurring injury has a special significance in that it is a means of keeping faith with people across time. In the case of shock, it keeps faith with those who have been injured in the past. It keeps faith with those currently being beset. And it keeps faith with the prospective victims of the future — herein lies a commitment, however hard it may be to bring it to fruition, to such concepts as “never again.”

To turn to the action at hand, if protesting shock in general is important, this particular ECT initiative is particularly important. Why? Because it was initiated by and to a large extent is being organized by shock survivors themselves — and as such, is first order protest (that is, protest by those centrally affected). Because survivors and their allies are standing up together. Because it is part of the insurrection of subjugated knowledge (“subjugated” knowledge is the disallowed knowledge of the oppressed; see Foucault, 1980). Because it announces to the world that survivors are a constituency that can no longer be ruled/overruled. Because of the sheer size of it.

It is significant in this regard that the action being planned is by far the largest international protest against shock in history. Note, twenty-eight cities had signed on when last I checked, and in no past international protest has there been more than five (achieved in the Mother’s Day Protest organized by Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault in 2011). What the sheer size, together with the survivor and the global quality signifies is that there is massive dissatisfaction with this this “treatment,” and there is a growing commitment to resist. Correspondingly, it delivers a tangible message to the public.

What does it tell the public? No, ECT was not stopped years ago. No, it is not the “improved”  and benign procedure of psychiatry’s messaging. No, it is not true that most people greatly benefit from shock—in fact, quite the opposite. No, we will not be quiet about it.  And yes, there is an onus on you to do something about it.

That said, while these are primary reasons to protest ECT and while they are existential in nature, there are also formidable non-existential reasons. Whether directly or indirectly, some of these link up with the psychiatry abolitionist agenda. And it is here where the question of strategy enters in.

The point is, while it is important to protest regardless, strategic considerations themselves call for a targeting of ECT. To concretize this, insofar as we want to make inroads in reining in psychiatry, prioritizing a procedure that most psychiatrists themselves refrain from employing and which the public to varying degrees fear makes sense. Why? Because people know on some level that it is woefully misguided, even if they do not admit to themselves that they know. Correspondingly, as something that the general public inherently recognizes as violent, ECT can serve as a symbol of the violent nature of psychiatry overall.

That is, it can be employed as a sensitizer, as an aid in making manifest what is now covert, and as such, unrecognized. What relates to this and is likewise significant, insofar as an attrition model of psychiatry abolition is followed, the abolition of ECT is an obvious place to begin (for a discussion of psychiatry abolition and the attrition model, see Burstow, 2014a and 2014b) Why? Again, precisely because the violence is more obvious, precisely because most psychiatrists do not practice it, moreover, because of all the fights facing our movement, arguably, it is the fight that can be most readily won.

A different but likewise strategic reason to prioritize anti-ECT protests relates back to the existential point made earlier about the nature of public protests, more pointedly, about how such processes existentially unite us as a “we” (for further elucidation on the concept, see Sartre. 1946/1953). Whatever we call this movement against psychiatry, whether it be “critical psychiatry,” “antipsychiatry,” “the mad movement,” “the disability rights movement,” or “the survivor movement,” like every other movement, it is beset by differences that pull its members apart. What is of strategic significance about ECT is that our attitude toward ECT for the most part draws us together. How so? Because overwhelmingly, movement people recognize how utterly beyond the pale ECT is. Correspondingly, insofar as this is the case, a focus on shock intensifies the cohesion inherent in protest generally, and as such shock protest can be a potent force for movement building.

In Summation

So; why should we be protesting ECT? To summarize: because of what both shock and human protest are, as it were, “all about.” Because shock is so damaging as to be unacceptable. Because in so protesting, we are expressing our own humanity in the deepest sense of the term. Because it involves bearing witness to what screams out to be witnessed. Because shock protest is something owed to those violated, whether the people violated be ourselves or others. Because it allows us to join together, to stand up together and be counted. Because it is a way of keeping faith with people have already been or might yet be subjected to ECT. Because such protest is part and parcel of the insurrection of subjugated knowledge.

These are reasons of relevance to everyone, that place some degree of demand on everyone, and while no one can actively (capital “p”) Protest every injustice, besides that this one is especially egregious, people can always do something, however minimal, to register protest. Additionally, it makes sense for adherents of antipsychiatry/critical psychiatry to both actively protest and to prioritize shock protest not only for the moral/existential reasons listed above and not only because this is our community (meaningful in itself), but because doing so is strategic in that ECT acts as a symbol. Because such protest lays bare the covert nature of psychiatry generally. Because it fits with an abolition agenda. Because it contributes to movement building.

* * *

That said, to return to the context which occasioned this article: On May 16th  2015, at the instigation of shock survivors, people across the world — from the US, to Canada, to Ireland, to Brazil, to Uruguay — will be joined together in protest. I applaud all those who have taken up this task — who are planning, making posters, blogging, talking to the press. I wish everyone the best in their various efforts that day and, indeed, in all subsequent ECT protests; and I encourage folk outside the antipsychiatry and critical psychiatry fold to consider joining in.

Note, if it is a moral/existence calling, it is also a mitzvah to stand up for justice, or to use feminist Kate Millet’s descriptor for protests of this ilk (from personal correspondence): to stand up for the mind. Hopefully, this article has added a new dimension of understanding, and, in the process, however modestly, contributed to the action and the cause. Correspondingly, ending in the spirit of solidarity, as one human being to another (read: one protestor to another), I leave you with a modified version of the Anti-Shock Proclamation, which I penned in 2011.

Please feel free to draw on it should you find it of any assistance to you, whether in this or in subsequent protests:

The Anti-Shock Proclamation

We who care,

We who are committed to decency,

We who behold with horror the disrespect for human life around us,    

We who shudder at the knowledge 

Of women whose memory has been turned into ember and ashes,  

Of families brutally torn asunder by pulse waves or sine waves,

Of the elderly, whose final life reward is electrocution,   

We who hold this fearful knowledge can be silent no longer.

LEGISLATORS, on this day of international protest, May 16 2015, we hold you directly accountable and call on you to withdraw your authorization for electroshock.    

FELLOW CITIZENS who think this “practice” stopped decades ago, on this day of protest, May 16, 2015,

We tell you that the carnage continues and that you too are responsible.  

On this day of protest, May 16th 2015, as survivors and allies, we come together to raise our voices in protest, 

And we vow to return,

To return, 

And return again  

Until this abomination 

Is no more.   

* * * * *

(For this and related articles, see For more extensive analyses, see Burstow, 2015).


Abrams, R. (2002). Electroconvulsive therapy (4th. ed.). New York: Oxford University Press.

Breggin, P. (1991). Toxic psychiatry. New York: St. Martins Press.

Burstow, B. (2006). Electroshock as a form of violence against women. Violence Against Women, 12 (4), 372-392.

Burstow, B. (2014a). The withering of psychiatry: An attrition model for antipsychiatry. In B. Burstow, B. LeFrançois, & S. Diamond (Eds.), Psychiatry disrupted: Theorizing resistance and crafting the revolution (pp. 34-51). Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

Burstow, B. (2014b). On the attrition model of psychiatry abolition. Retrieved on March 27, 2015

Burstow, B. (2015). Psychiatry and the business of madness: An ethical and epistemological accounting. Toronto: Palgrave Macmillan.

Chabasinski, T. (2015). May 16, 2015: The international day of protest. Retrieved on March 27, 2015

Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (2005). Narratives from Inquiry into Psychiatry. Retrieved on April 6, 2013

Foucault, M. (1980). Power knowledge. New York: Pantheon.

Greenberg, D. (2007). Neurogenesis and stroke. CNS and neurological disorders-drug target, 6, 231-325.

Read, J. & Bentall, R. (2010). The effectiveness of electroconvulsive therapy: A literature review. Epidemiologia e Psichiatria Sociale, 19, 333 ff.

Ross, C. (2006). The sham ECT literature: Implications for consent to ECT. Ethical Human Psychology and Psychiatry, 8, 17-28.

Sackeim, H., Prudic, J., Fuller, R., Kielp, J., Lavori, P., & Olfson, M. (2007). The cognitive effects of electroconvulsive therapy in community settings. Neuropsychopharmacology, 32, 244-255.

Sartre, J.P. (1943/1956). Being and nothingness (Hazel Barnes, Trans.) New York: Pocket Books.

Van Daalen-Smith, C. (2011). Waiting for oblivion: Women’s experiences with electroshock. Journal of Mental Health Nursing, 32, 457-472.

Zarubenko, I., Yakolev, A., Stepanichev, M., & Gulyaeva, N. (2005). Electroconvulsive shock induces neuron death in the hippocampus: Correlation of neurodegeneration with convulsive activity. Neuroscience and Behavioral Science, 35, 715-721.


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  1. Wonderful article, Bonnie, very motivating, and I agree, wholeheartedly. Thank you. I’m personally still trying to mentally transition myself from one who was once within the mainstream (dad was arguably the number one ethical MIS specialist in the US banking industry in this country in his heyday, and now our country’s economy has seeming been handed over to the “too big to fail” central bankers our founding fathers warned us of), to being that of a rebel, of sorts. I wasn’t expecting that to be the direction my life would take, but I was psychiatrically defamed and drugged while this happened.

    So I know today’s psychiatric DSM “bible” of stigmatizations, and the bio-bio-bio psychiatric theology, is the absolute opposite of the Christian / Judaeo theology that it’s important to treat others as you’d like to be treated. Thus a country that advocates belief in the DSM is no longer a Christian / Judaeo country, which seems to be where I now live.

    I, thankfully, was not subjected to ETC, but know without a shadow of a doubt, that the entire psychiatric forced drugging system is as much of a pyramid scheme, as is the central bankers’ monetary system. And at this point, anyone who believes respect for humanity is more important than corporate profits, needs to become a “rebel.”

    It’s a sad state our society is now in, and our founding fathers warned us of this:

    “If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks and corporations that will grow up around them will deprive the people of all property until their children wake up homeless on the continent their Fathers conquered…I believe that banking institutions are more dangerous to our liberties than standing armies… The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs.”

    I see us fighting against historically known unjust evil entities, who are utilizing the same unjust and scientifically invalid psychiatric systems of control, that the Nazis did during WWII. And if your research the moneyed interests of those currently in control, they are the same families and businesses that financed WWII, and they never, and are still are not, working for the best interests of all within humanity.

    God help us.

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  2. Yes, Someone Else, transitions are difficult, though also exciting. For me, personally, I have never been mainstream, but nonetheless, like everyone else, I have faced transitions. My own sense here is that our movement overall needs to transition from being at the stage of awakening that it is at to becoming a force to be reckoned with,something that forces the general public to re-think and re-plan. Otherwise, the system will remain largely what it is, with psych survivors and allies getting tiny concessions here and there.

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    • Bonnie,

      I agree, “transitions are difficult, though also exciting.” And I guess my point was to state that now that we’re all living in the information age, there are lots of people online “awakening” to the fraud and deception of our current “leaders.” Those defamed by psychiatry are becoming a part of the many who have been harmed by the current status quo and are awakening, we potentially have lots of allies.

      But I believe spreading the message of how unconstitutional and unjust the psychiatric theology is, since it’s no more scientifically credible to claim a person is schizophrenic, than it was to claim a Jew is mentally ill, is important.

      Especially since we now have the medical proof that the “gold standard cure” for schizophrenia, the antipsychotics / neuroleptics, indeed do CAUSE the schizophrenia symptoms. Proof from “neuroleptics … may result in … the anticholinergic intoxication syndrome … Central symptoms may include memory loss, disorientation, incoherence, hallucinations, psychosis, delirium, hyperactivity, twitching or jerking movements, stereotypy, and seizures.”

      How can a “gold standard cure” for a disease also be known to CAUSE the symptoms of that disease? Doctors can’t distinguish between the central symptoms of neuroleptic induced anticholinergic intoxication syndrome and schizophrenia. Especially, since the only difference between the supposed “genetic” illness, and the completely iatrogenic illness, is “inactivity” vs. “hyperactivity.” But the neuroleptics are tranquilizers that make everyone tired.

      I’m quite certain the science is on the side of the psychiatric survivors, but we need to inform the mainstream medical community that maintaining the current corporate / big government / “warrior elite” controlled status quo is not actually in their best interest either, from an historic wisdom, and bigger socio / economic perspective.

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  3. If you go or participate in a ECT protest, you have to bring a VISUAL. and KIS= keep it simple.

    I have gone to several ECT protests here in Montreal, Canada. It is an annual event.

    The police stopped me one time and asked me about my protest sign I was bringing.

    “What is this ETC”? they asked me.
    “It is when a doctor puts electricity through your brain.” I responded.
    “They do that?” the police responded.

    A large photo of a brain, or something similar is necessary to get the onlookers to understand what we are protesting.

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    • Yes, markps2, visuals are important–a long standby in protests. It can be images on flat surfaces, whether banners or signs. It can be small enactments. It can be huge three-dimensional affairs. In one of our CAPA (Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault) anti-shock demos, we paraded through the streets carrying giant puppet heads (made of card board). Anything that shows rather than only tells is a good thing.

      And re police, to my amazement, I too have known them to suddenly take a supportive interest at demos challenging psychiatry. In this regard, one never knows where one’s support may come from.

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  4. Are there T-shirts available to wear? I would order one for all my siblings as our Father had ECT and he was never the same afterwards – As a teenager, this was my first experience I recall of where “do no harm” went out the door

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    • Hi there, Gary. Glad to hear you are interested. Each of groups are doing their own private demos and so you would have to ask the people in any given area. CAPA personally (the group that I represent and that is demonstrated in Toronto) is at the moment not making t-shirts To get updates on the demos, please check it to seed what Ted C. is posting to Mad in America. For contact people for each of the demos so that you can direct individual questions to them, go to then hit the button dedicated to the protest.

      all the best

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    • We now have a sort of steering committee in place, and have even been able to hire someone part time as staff. Someone sent us a very good logo suitable for a t-shirt and we will be trying to decide what to do about t-shirts soon. What I am most concerned about is if we get a whole bunch made and don’t have time to sell them. Fulfilling orders will be very time consuming as well. But just the same, I think it is a great idea.

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  5. I first got caught in their dragnet when I was 16 .Before I reached the age of 18 like too many others I was forced against my will without any legal hearing having done nothing out of the ordinary was hospitalized and suddenly with no way out on a psychiatrists say so and my parents signature on my way to receiving a series of 15 bilateral electro shock “treatments”.
    No matter how terrified you feel,
    No matter if your fear is way past red line,
    Your heart, elevator dropped ,instantly to your stomach.
    And if your weak at the knees from fear and your legs won’t
    hold you up to take a step forward,
    No matter if you felt the worst pain in your life
    and the blast of the explosion from the center of your skull to
    beyond is entirely fully seen and felt by you personally laying
    THEY WON’T BELIEVE IT ! You will be casually ignored.
    No matter what you don’t remember
    No matter if you must relate something urgently
    Nothing stops these “treatments”.
    No matter what, your series of ECT will continue as
    ” Prescribed”, to completion, enforced, by all means necessary.

    I hope , Bonnie, as you say until this abomination is no more .
    Thanks , I hope to be protesting in Eugene ,Oregon

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  6. Thank you Bonnie. I was in touch with you some time ago via Cheryl Van Daarlen Smith re ECT here in Melbourne Australia. I recently found out that our government has abandoned the private psychiatric hospital system here. It is now left to itself to expand its ECT horizons to a new height. Most clinics operate ECT 5 days a week now, have shocking abuse histories including threats, bullying, physical force, coercion to the point of suicide. (a friend’s brother last year). The docs are making more than $20,000 a week, with establishment support. Well, they’re making plenty too. I have just written a long letter to a journalist about this and will follow it up with every other journo I can find. But I’m alone here. I can’t find anyone to help me and I’m old now. (72) I’m frightened by the cynicism, the unparalleled power and money these people have. Their lobby group managed to get significant details of the new Mental Health Act here changed to suit the ECT lobby, days before it was tabled in parliament. We now have NO age restrictions on ECT for children here and a very high profile psych zealot stating it’s no more dangerous for children than adults. Well at least he concedes it’s dangerous. But not really. I’m seeing abuse, assault, destruction of people’s lives at these people’s hands and all I have is, hopefully, the power of the press. But mental health is not SEXY! It’s all very well when there’s nothing else in the news – the German pilot is a focus but a small flood in Eritrea could tip even that off the front page. I have written an info brochure for patients which the Breggins and ISEPP are supporting but I have to edit it to make it accessible to people in crisis. Right now it’s too detailed & scientific. I am about to try and set up a Survivor;s group for victims & loved one’s but one of the problems with ECT is that it robs people of initiative. I have contacted the only viable consumer group here but either they’re afraid of my passion, or of losing their hard won government funding, or both. Can you send me some kind of press kit that I could release to the general public? My family are against my pursuing this as they believe it is unhealthy but I have fought my way clear oif the system, I have NO drugs, No symptoms of ANY mental health issues and believe my experience is wide enough for me to make a difference. I also received 87 ECT Rxs in 2000 for a) a suicidal reaction to Prozac (Prescribed for stress?), the depressive reaction to Lithium (Prescribed for the `bipolar’ Organic brain syndrome I had after 14 ECT Rxs & I was an artist so…), the PTSD from having 66 ECT against my will i n20 months – the other 21 (in 6 weeks 2010 came form being openly derogative about ECT in a shock shop. I never was able to work as a sculptor again, or a novelist 2 books under a publishing contract in 2000, or a screen writer, a sit-com optioned & a movie series to complete with an interested producer. I was shut down by ECT – It scares me to have to start a group, I too, have brain damage & face dementia but, I will not let them keep doing that.

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  7. I am also trying to contact John Read, who is now here in Melbourne. I want to design a questionnaire similar to Cheryl Van Daarlen-Smith’s and Lucy Johnstone’s. There’s been a lot of study I know but every bit counts. I also want to write a theatre piece exposing the stupidity of psychiatry – the extraordinary logic lapses that abound – I’m up to 103 so far – how can they be taken seriously with their flies undone, I say – passion doesn’t work, reason certainly doesn’t, there’s not enough money to sink them (unless Bill Gates comes to our aid), so maybe ridicule? There again, how do you get to TV, when programs of ECT endorsement are the only ones that hit the air waves (Australia SBS Insight 2013), money for film development comes from the government here, the ABC is not as fearless as we, and they’d like to think – ideas are what I have executive power is what I’ve lost but I’m trying.

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    • Deee042: Sorry about was has happened to you. As someone who is 70 herself, I also have a special feeling for the very unique danger faced by people in senior years. I do not have a press kit, but do write to Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault;and it can send some of its material that you might use. For ECT in particular, you might write to Ted. The easiest way I can think of for you to get hold of John Read would be to message him on Facebook, for he is indeed on Facebook. Working with John Read and with the Breggins sounds good.

      Hard to do this with so few allies, and while struggling with damage to boot. Creating a group, if this is something that you end up feeling up to strikes me as a particularly good way to go. Acting as part of a “we” always feels better than action alone.

      All the best to you in your efforts.

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  8. My grandmother was what White people call “Native American” . Many of us no longer refer to ourselves as this but suffice it to say that she was descended from the indigenous cultures of people who existed in North and South America before the invasions from Europe began. Anyway, she was a wise woman in the sense that she was looked up to and respected by many of the native peoples where we lived specifically because of her so-called “mental health issues”. She knew how to use native plants to help heal people from their illnesses. The local medical doctor in the community always complained about her because she had more “patients” coming to see her than those coming to see him!

    Because she was different from the accepted norm of that community she was hauled off to the state hospital where she was given 40 so-called “treatments” of ect. When she was finally allowed to come home and back to us she was no longer the wonderful woman that I’d always known and loved in my early years. She was a stranger who didn’t know me, didn’t know any of her family, and almost didn’t remember even her own name. She never ever got back to the wonderful and wise woman that she’d been before they assaulted her with this barbaric torture.

    I live in a very backward state and the only movement that supposedly looks to the care and treatment of the “mentally ill” is NAMI. There are no other organizations to turn to so there is no way that I can find a group to protest with. But my heart will be there with everyone in all the states where the protests do take place on May 16.

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    • Wow, Stephan, I’m so sorry for what happened to your grandmother. Thank you for sharing. Mainstream medicine is apparently quite vicious in it’s desire to destroy their potential competition. And this is sad and counterintitiive to American common sense, since competition is what brings about innovation and solutions.

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  9. Such a terrible waste of knowledge, Stephen. Once again an illustration of where money and power step in to crush what should have been embraced, encouraged and learned from. But it echoes the entire history of Western medicine. For thousands of years the healers were the women who handed down their knowledge from mother to daughter. The public turned to them for their herbal remedies, techniques of suturing, binding, delivering babies and they probably even knew of certain moulds that prompted the healing of wounds too. But as the Church rose in power it saw anything that interfered with that power as a threat to be destroyed. Men ran the church, power in women was unacceptable. In a celibate hierarchy women were (and may still be today) seen as the enemy, responsible for the worst conflicts in the priest’s daily life. That the locals turned to them when they needed medical help was intolerable. After all, the church postulated that illness was the result of the devil at work and as such was to be driven out by God’s representatives, not the village anti-Christ WITCH. And so began the systematic murder of the healers with the loss of the accumulated wisdom of millennia. And Western medicine began the aggressive `driving out’ of disease as the enemy pathway, instead of it being a normal part of life to be dealt with on many fronts. Purging and bleeding, violent exorcism, beatings, untried poisons, etc to rid us of the devil, (which may, in the celibate, have been synonymous with his own natural urges). Later, as the church’s influence began to wane, other men figured they could keep up the good work and make a buck out of it. The purging and aggression remained but now they were driving out the humours, and could really only safely use the exorcism routines on the mad. This male dominated medical model lives on today as we read more and more pseudoscientific justifications for ECT and, God forbid, for the return of brain surgery, (the lobotomy is back as Cingulotomy and Capsulotomy), cutting and burning, poisons and electrocution are what psychiatry today offers. There is no healing here.
    Of course they killed/destroyed the medicine men from other cultures, too. The staggering truth is that these people are unable to embrace, or learn. It seems an intrinsic part of the male ethos that everything is a threat, to be pushed aside or destroyed. Surely human beings are better than that. We have choices. What about insight, empathy & humility? Cooperation NOT confrontation. Guys, join the leaders of the herd, the females. In my little cattle herd, one cow aways took everyone to the best feeding spots, the bull huffed and puffed a lot but realised if he wanted the best food, he’d better go too, and he did. Why can’t you have as much sense as my, now long gone, Bimbadeen Star of Venus?

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    • There is no question but that we are dealing with patriarchy here. And there is no questions but that medicine in general triumphed by pushing down the women healers. A dreadful travesty which I explore in the history chapters of my book Psychiatry and the Business of Madness, and which writers like Szasz also have commented on.

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  10. Oh and Stephen I know some Canadian aboriginal people. The amount of psych drug addiction is terrible. Shove a poison into these poor people and shut them up, then we won’t have to think about them. It;s then their fault that they’re `junkies’. Oh, and ECT developed because it was seen to stop pigs bad behaviour by stunning them into docility. Since when did it ever have ANYTHING to do with healing?

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