ECT Day of Protest:
Time for You to Take Leadership


Work on the May 16 International Day of Protest Against Shock Treatment is moving right along.  This spontaneously-organized, grassroots effort now includes 21 cities in 16 states, plus two each in Canada and the United Kingdom.  There will also be demonstrations in Ireland, New Zealand, and Uruguay.    The May 16 event has been endorsed by MindFreedom International and the Law Project for Psychiatric Rights, although it was independently organized by a small group of shock survivors. For an up to date list, please see  If you would like to organize a demo of your own, please contact [email protected].

We are getting a loose but functional coordinating structure in place.  A small amount of money is being raised to hire a part-time staff person, and we are slowly but surely working together more and more smoothly.  Money is always a problem in grassroots organizing, but we can hardly expect that the abusive system we are fighting will be funding us.  No one pays to have their power taken away.

Some exciting things are starting to take shape.  The group in Toronto, which will also be facing off against the American Psychiatric Association’s annual meeting there on May 16, has lined up a member of Parliament to support their event.  In New York City, the folks there have lined up an influential member of the State Senate.

In New York’s New Jersey suburbs, one of our activists has a fighting chance to get his county legislature to issue a proclamation supporting our event.  Whether that happens or not, it is important to try to do.  Big victories are not always won on the first try.

In Texas, we are told that non-violent civil disobedience is being planned, and it may be in more than one city.  If people are willing to make the sacrifice of being arrested for what they believe in, it is a very powerful way of drawing public attention to our cause.

Someone with very good graphics skills has designed a striking logo that we might use for a letterhead and T-shirts.  We will have to figure out how we can produce and sell the T-shirts in a short time.

All this reminds me of when our movement in the San Francisco area put a ban on shock on the Berkeley ballot.  Suddenly people we had never seen before, excited by this bold project, turned up and contributed their ideas and work and money.   And now we are starting to capture people’s imaginations again, as we break out of our bubble and reach out to the public (and our own people) with a strong message of protest.

I am especially excited by a recent contact with a journalist who is producing a video for the New York Times about our movement, forty years ago and now. She told me that coordinated demonstrations like this are very interesting, and said she wanted to cover what happens on May 16.  We will be encouraging our organizers to film what happens in their cities and post on YouTube.  When our staff comes on board, we will be making a major effort to contact media outlets, especially those (of course) who have reported fairly on our issues over the last few years.

I will be producing a generic press release that can be modified by local people for their city, and will be encouraging everyone to reach out to their local media.  Even a small demonstration, in a small city that has not seen this kind of issue before, can catch the attention of the local newspaper or radio or TV station. Often, media folks are happy to find some news to report in places like that. And even a demonstration of ten or twelve people, when they are connected with dozens of such demonstrations all over the world, can be exciting news.

I want to encourage people who are reading this and want to do something in their town, but feel that they don’t have the skills or experience to organize anything.  Myself, I have been involved in this human rights movement since 1971, and in the civil rights movement of the Sixties as well. It was scary for me to do anything like this at the beginning.  My childhood at the hands of psychiatry taught me that I was worthless, helpless, and would never accomplish anything.  But even though I was afraid, I wanted to help the brave black people fighting for respect as full human beings.  I understood that what was being done to them was very much like what had been done to me as a child.

And so even though I was afraid, I began to organize sympathy picket lines at Woolworth stores, and held meetings in my college where I learned how to speak in public.  I began to feel much better about myself as I supported the civil rights cause. And when I found the “mental patients” liberation movement, it really was liberating. At last I could openly be who I am and be proud of how I had survived.

We psych survivors have been indoctrinated to feel helpless and worthless.  It is very hard to overcome that, but it is very liberating when you try.  So I want to say to you that, yes, it will be scary, but fighting back will make you feel a lot better about yourself. If we all work together, we can win this fight.

We CAN win, and you CAN be a leader.  Our movement needs people like you to take leadership.  We need you.  Organize something for May 16, even if it is just you and a few of your friends. Remember, you won’t be alone, but part of an important event taking place all over the world. There will be more experienced people helping you, and when this is over, you will be proud of what you have done.

May 16 is about fighting shock treatment, but it is more than that.  Shock reflects the attitude of psychiatry, that we see too much of in our larger culture too, that people are just profit centers to be exploited.

But human beings are not things to be used.  We are brothers and sisters, all of us, and we owe to each other caring, concern, and nurturing. That is the vision of the world I am working toward when I work in this movement, and I hope that is your vision too.

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Mad in America hosts blogs by a diverse group of writers. These posts are designed to serve as a public forum for a discussion—broadly speaking—of psychiatry and its treatments. The opinions expressed are the writers’ own.


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  1. Great article Ted! Excellent point about the ease of creating news in small towns. It was pretty easy in Northampton, MA even when we did very small protests with about a dozen people. I’m pretty maxed out at the moment but would like to help you in any way possible once things calm down. Do you have a location yet for San Francisco? At the very least I could spread the word and we could put out an email to the folks who were at Leonard’s memorial as quite a few of them are shock survivors.

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  2. Thanks for the praise, Chaya,and of course your help would be very welcome. I have tentatively set the time and place as Herrick Hospital in Berkeley from 2 to 4, but there are shock shops in San Francisco as well. If we had enough people we could do both. Thanks for the suggestion about contacting the people who were at Leonard Frank’s memorial. I’ll bet almost all of them will come to this demonstration. Let’s talk soon.

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  3. “But human beings are not things to be used. We are brothers and sisters, all of us, and we owe to each other caring, concern, and nurturing. That is the vision of the world I am working toward when I work in this movement, and I hope that is your vision too.”

    I think this is a lovely sentiment, Ted…my brother….

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  4. We certainly have our work cut out for us.

    Here is an excerpt from a series entitled, “The Truth About 8 Depression Myths,” that is continually available on the CNN website:

    “Myth 4: Shock Therapy Is an Outdated Treatment for Depression

    Shock therapy might sound scary, but it can be a very effective way to treat severe depression. In fact, it has an 86% success rate with severe depression. Today, it’s called electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). The treatment shocks, or stimulates, the brain. During ECT you are asleep and will not feel anything. ECT is one of the quickest ways to treat severe depression. Side effects can include confusion and memory loss, but these are usually temporary.”

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  5. Hi Ted! I viewed the video and became aware of the efforts to discredit you publicly for your leadership/involvement at the Berkley project. Thank you for continuing to courageously speak out and be a leader to this day! You are making a big difference!

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  6. As a young man of 33 years old as of April 17th, AND a psychiatric survivor, I have answered the call, Ted. I will be working with Lauren Tenney and Ceclia Brown in planning and organizing the NYC Protest. I am volunteering to lead the charge as Lauren has to work that day, and I’m not yet sure what Ceclia’s availability is. I am but the learner, but I am eager and highly motivated. I bring to the table energy and passion, as well as innate intelligence. I also hope more youth get involved in protests like this in the future. And even new comers in general. We need good people to do the good work of getting information out to the world.

    I am looking forward to putting out a 110 percent effort on this one. Let’s show the world what ECT really is all about, as well as exposing what psychiatry really is all about In Solidarity!!!!!!!!!!!

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  7. Thanks Ted, for the call to arms and for telling your story. It helps a lot to know that recovery, despite brain damage, is possible. Particularly given that I was older and was shocked less. I only have my big toe on the road to transformation, but reading your story is inspiring and I will do what I can to spread the word. I think the public need to know what the voltages, currents and durations are and that the muscle relaxants and anaesthetic make the damage worse than the pre-anaesthetic days. Lessened emotional distress due to being unconscious and less likelihood of broken bones, but greater brain damage due to the greater electrical requirements to produce a seizure when the body is numbed by poison. (Apologies if what follows is too long. It grew as I wrote).

    An Irish psychiatrist, the late Michael Corry, had to go to England to qualify because shocking someone there was not a condition of getting your licence, as it is here.

    What if you couldn’t find a “depressed” or “catatonic” patient on the day of your shock practical? Find someone vulnerable to shock anyway?

    Shrinks (people who cause your brain to atrophy) here suggest that electroshock is only used involuntarily in cases of “catatonia”.

    I’m not convinced that “catatonia” is a disease or a symptom of one (unless it’s psychiatrogenic). Am I wrong in thinking it’s about refusing to communicate with your abusers? Your family? Mental facility staff? A protest?
    You’re apathetic. You’ve given up. You want to die. Maybe you’ll talk to people who’ve never hurt you, however. The people who’ve never lost their humanity. The cleaners. The household staff. The non-medical humans. Other mammals. The rare stray dog that’s wandered in.

    If you can be shocked out of “catatonia”, surely it’s about memory loss and nothing else? You forgot you were protesting. You’re apathetic anyway. You don’t care if you live or die. If you are committed against your will, you have nowhere to go. The only thing you can control is your body. What goes into it and what comes out of it and when. A kind of institutionalised “anorexia” perhaps. As the brain begins to heal and you become aware of the abusive behaviours of others all over again you go into power-save or standby mode again and the cycle continues.

    I used to identify with the girl in the movies who rocked to and fro clutching a doll, muttering something quietly to herself, perhaps singing softly. I took comfort from believing that that’s where I would get to too when the pain got exponentially more unbearable than the worst physical pain that I had ever experienced. A point of no return. A state of being, whereby hurt could no longer be experienced. (Un)fortunately that doesn’t happen.

    One of the most horrific things that I ever realised was that the pits of despair are bottomless and you’re in control of your own sinking. Now how do I get back up? My head’s above the mire. I’ve taken the first step. Thanks to MIA and others online for your help. Your harmless help. You didn’t bring it to me. You didn’t force it on me. You didn’t hold me down, pull down my pants and inject it into my buttock. You left it out there. Somewhere. It was hard to find. Now I know why.

    The truth is rarely returned on page 1 of an internet search. Who sponsors truth? Try page 20 and beyond! What were my keywords? “schizophrenia” and “recovery”. I was never labelled “schizophrenic” but after reading the late Thomas Szasz’s “The Myth of Mental Illness” in 2010, I needed evidence that there existed folks who escaped from the most slanderous of labels, to lead a life that they thought was worth living. If they could do it, then maybe I could too, despite failing as a psychiatric child. You know the sort, the drug-resistant, shock-resistant, placebo-resistant types. How dare I be resistant to torture?

    Who did I find? Rufus May, Eleanor Longden and Ron Unger; and so many more since, and now you, Ted. Thank you all for the helping hand. For holding the hope until I could reach out and touch it myself.

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  8. If you want to end ECT in C.A., I will explain how it needs to be done. This is the only way to end ECT. Read all of this and you will understand, I truly know how. Get your medical records. They should include progress notes, consent forms, report of treatment, Anesthesia report, Nurses checklist, history and physical form. Get a copy of your Policy and Procedure Manual as well. Every hospital creates their own. I will be putting up a U Tube video so everyone including the Government will know this treatment from A to Z. I will teach all Californian’s what to look for. Once you get the records in your hand, call Eric Morkawa, State level Licensing and Certification Board #916-324-6630 or email him at [email protected] and your district Licensing and Certification Board, demand an internal investigation. I uncovered I was given 29 treatments over the State of C.A. limit, which is no more then 30 in a year. I had a total of 58 by Dec. 31, 2012. My case is still open with the State. It is at a standstill since no one in State Government knows what ECT actually is. I have enough evidence to shut down ECT in the State of C.A., and they know it. Here is a disturbing fact with the Licensing and Certification Board, they do not check to make sure the hospital provides is correct. There is no one in U.S. Government that know anything about ECT or the machine’s including the FDA. The State admitted they investigated my accusations without having any idea what they were investigating. People tell me to write a book. I have been fighting this for a year and have medical records, mounds of evidence to back up everything to nail this industry and shut it down in C.A.. How many people will experience the same sever brain damage in the time frame it the time frame it would take me to right a book. I can prove with evidence every claim Linda Andre has in her book, “Doctors of Deception.” The Hospital and Dr.’s I went to are so corrupt it is beyond reason. We are on our own. I can dissect any medical report and determine if a Doctor should be reported to the medical board. When I share just a bit of my story, people have a hard time believing it was true, just the rape and the brain damage, but there is so much more. After ECT, in 2013, one of my attempts of suicide, I did cross over, but I was not allowed to stay. ECT led me to suicide. I got stable after TMS at the end of 2013. How I found out what happened to me is truly divine. There is only one reason why I survived the life of hell of the severest of depression, bipolar. Why else would I die, be denied and then have mounds of evidence plop on my lap. I am here to help anyone, [email protected]. I do want to make something clear. I am no more special then any of you. I did talk to Leonard Frank about 9 months ago. He gave me one name of an advocate in C.A. and this person was not interested in what happened to me, actually had no empathy what so ever. This person has only appeared to care after Leonard Frank died, I believe to secure a legacy he is not deserving of. Linda Andre and Leonard Frank are the only two people who have dedicated there lives to fight to end ECT, and only them are deserving of a legacy. From now on it is all of us.

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  9. My name is Diane and I posted my thoughts about 20 minutes ago. My email address is d.scurrah@aolcom and I will forward any email to you to validate what I wrote. If you wish to know if I am being 100% truthful, I will forward emails between me and Leonard Frank and the Advocate who he said I should contact, but had no interest.

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