“Let’s Not Go Overboard About ECT”


In an internet email discussion among a large group of supposedly enlightened mental health professionals, few came forward to outright condemn or ban ECT. One participant responded to my comments with, “It worries me how this debate gets so polarized. I appreciate Peter’s opposition to ECT. But that doesn’t mean ECT has not ‘helped people’ even though it might be a placebo effect.” Another declared it was “fashionable” to criticize ECT, but all treatments had their pros and cons. Most seemed to agree that “it sometimes works.”

This refusal to say or to accept something polarizing is a hallmark of most so-called reformers in the field of mental health. What about lobotomy—most of which my 1970s campaign stopped? What about insulin coma therapy? The spinning chair? What about freezing baths? What about the bleeding and purgatives? What about all the other atrocities committed by psychiatry on helpless “patients”? Should we never have simply said, “Stop!”?

Some Things Are Worth Polarizing Over

We know enough about the damage caused by ECT to conclude that it would be unethical even to experiment on people (and perhaps even on animals) in search of that person who supposedly might benefit. I was once asked to add my guidance as a consult to a study of ECT in a foreign country in order to make sure the damaging effects were revealed by the measurements. It would have been like participating in a study of beating children and adults to make sure the perpetrators properly cataloged all the harms. The only possible ethical guidance, I decided, was to urge an end to the experiment and to refuse to participate.

Refusing to take a rock-solid stand against atrocities results in violent people and institutions getting away with things like ECT and lobotomy, and severe spankings or beatings of children, for that matter. Like psychiatrists who refuse to reject ECT for children or adults, many educators once defended “corporal punishment” as a benefit to some children when used judiciously. Mealy-mouthing like this prevents the abolition of these abuses and empowers those who wish to shock, lobotomize or beat children and adults, if only “when necessary.”

What Do We Mean that ECT “Sometimes Works”? 

Perhaps ECT “works” about as often as a severe beating inflicted on a child. Anecdotes tell us nothing because even if it were true that some people were supposedly helped by ECT, even as a placebo effect, we have no way to separate out the potential rare ECT victim who seems helped from the thousands more we know are harmed. The same would be true if we looked at beating children, which many parents to this day still swear by. Some adults believe their childhood beatings made them into better adults, a conclusion they too often then inflict on their own children as well.

Who is making the judgment that ECT works? It is almost always the doctors who prefer a stone face to a sad or angry one. It is also those nurses who prefer a more compliant patient who never “complains.” Sometimes it is an oppressive family member who prefers a more docile husband, wife or child, or a misguided loved one who mistakes passivity and lack of verbalized complaints for an improvement.

Most ECT patients, especially those who are “helped,” are too harmed to evaluate or to fully understand what has happened to them. As I describe in comparing some similar effects of psychiatric-drug neurotoxicity and ECT-induced brain damage, frontal lobe dysfunction diminishes finely tuned faculties such as self-insight or self-awareness. In addition, these victims may be saying they were helped in order to avoid being subjected to more of the same, much as children in violent homes and inmates in mental hospitals will act grateful for what they are getting, in order to avoid further harm. Indeed, patients teach each other to go along with everything in the mental hospital so that they can get out quicker and more safely.

Protecting the Feelings of People Who Don’t Know They Are Harmed?

What about the sensibilities of people who think they have been helped by ECT? I frequently am consulted by people who feel they have been injured by ECT or drugs. I’ve even seen people who have been injured by psychosurgery. All these people are almost always more harmed than they realize, and yet when I talk with them in a caring and honest manner about these harms, they feel relieved and deeply grateful. At long last, after so many professionals minimizing or denying the damage done to them, they feel understood and they feel confirmed. They feel better knowing what’s been done to them and having a doctor empathically share their loss, sadness and outrage. What I describe in The Heart of Being Helpful as a “healing presence” requires a combination of being honest, respectful and caring.

After discussing the harms with the victim and hopefully with sympathetic family members, I can then share with them another truth—that we human beings have such great psychological and spiritual resources that we can learn to live good lives despite the harm done to our mental functioning. Sometimes we can build much better lives—sometimes better than ever before—by learning to live as responsibly and as lovingly as possible. But how much better it would have been to have avoided the physical and emotional trauma of ECT and instead to have been helped in building a good life by the first professionals from whom we sought help.

The Woman Who Gave a Testimonial for ECT

At a large government-funded ECT conference where I was the sole expert on harm from treatment, a woman testified on the podium that ECT helped her. She looked very sad as she talked. Afterward, at the official press conference, she gently squeezed my arm as she passed by me and pressed a scribbled note into my pocket. Her note read, “Dr. Breggin, thank you for speaking out.” Even this woman, who professed in public that ECT helped her, was secretly grateful for my saying outright that it hurts people and should be stopped.


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. “Dr. Breggin, thank you for speaking out.” The magnitude of harm the psychiatric industry has historically, and still is doing, in the name of “helping” people, is so tragic it brings a tear to my eye. (Don’t worry, psychiatrists, it’s a tear due to disgust, not “depression.”) Thank you for speaking out, Dr. Breggin.

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  2. Thank you so much Dr Peter for speaking out yet again against the atrocity of ECT. My friend Sue Cunliffe is severely damaged by ECT and has a child who is sick she has to take care of. She is attempting to campaign against uninformed consent about this treatment. I wish her every success.

    You are so right Dr Peter you should never beat a child or use force against them. Or for that matter any adult unless maybe in self defense and some would question whether or not even then. I have reacted in self defense to patients attacking me in hospital but I have never harmed anyone. In fact in over 45 years I have lashed out maybe three or four times and not done anyone any real harm. Neither has my son.

    So, where is the excuse to treat mental patients worse then criminals? Just where is it? It seems we are vulnerable and so taken advantage of and this can be done to any child. Children can’t defend themselves. Vulnerable adults can’t defend themselves. Cowards take advantage of the vulnerable. What about when those doctors think they are actually helping their patients? The misguided and the misled.

    I asked an elderly woman once if she felt ECT helped her and she said she thought it did, but watching her she was definitely a very unhappy person and to me did in no way seem to be thriving. That word ‘Thrive’ so seldom used for the mentally ill.

    My husband was given several sessions of ECT by a very misguided doctor who wouldn’t listen to his nurses when they told him it wasn’t helping him. I witnessed him come out of the anesthetic too quickly and he had to be carried back to the ward and was put on his bed. I was asked by one forward thinking doctor if I thought this should continue and I didn’t know what to do because he slept for several hours afterwards and I was scared because he was so active that some harm would come to him. He had already absconded and a search party was sent for him because the hospital was in the middle of sparse countryside. In hindsight I wish I had stopped it. There was a woman in the recovery room who was awake climbed on all fours on her bed and really shouldn’t have been given this treatment at all because it never stopped her mania and seemed to make it worse.

    It takes brave pioneers and progressive people like yourself Dr Peter to make a difference and put wrongs to right.

    I am sure you have heard these words many times ‘Thank you!’.

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  3. If you want to hurt someone, tell him it’s for his good. Thus, he will be disarmed.

    The perversity of these people has no limit.

    It reminds me of this: migrant children are victims of rape and violence by ICE officials.

    On the other hand, doctors inject massive doses of neuroleptics and other psychiatric drugs to prevent them from revolting or defending themselves.

    This is the function of psychiatry: to destroy the brains of victims to protect criminals, and to participate in acts of torture under the guise of “cure mental illnesses”.

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  4. Anyone want to hazard a guess why that woman gave a glowing recommendation of ECT and then gave Peter Breggin that note? It sounds suspiciously like an abuse situation. As if she were afraid of someone she knew was watching her and–perhaps–had put her up to saying what she did.

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    • Excuse me Rachel 777 are you referring to my comment? I assure you nobody has put me up to writing that. I wrote it with over 45 years experience of psychiatry and have read over 1000 books on the subject. What is your experience? I have no brain damage after having shock treatment and my husband didn’t either although they nearly killed him in the process. I was once told by a psychiatric nurse that doctors bury their mistakes

      It might enlighten you to know that most psychiatrists believe in their treatment and are after helping their patients. In the UK we don’t advertise neuroleptics or drugs. There are incompetent doctors and some abusive I have experience those as for this being about eugenics and social control I am not paranoid enough to believe in that piffle.

      For those children in care oh yes I was exposed to that too as a child by nuns. And I was sexually abused by my family GP. In my experience i haven’t met a psychiatrist yet who didn’t believe in his treatment although trained in the wrong way.

      I have watched people die in front of me in psychiatric hospitals and I have been the victim of abuse from nurses and patients alike.

      I am well aware of all the hazards of shock treatment and psychiatric drugs and although at times I feel I am damaged I am not. I have overweight and basically that is all. That is enough. Would I campaign to stop force yes. Informed consent is so necessary otherwise it becomes a violation against human rights.

      Nobody puts me up to anything and I’m certainly not afraid of anyone. I just don’t go in for all of this social control aspect to psychiatry. I don’t believe in medicating the walking wounded let alone shocking them either. Or medicating women on the change, with post natal depression or post partum psychosis. These conditions are strictly hormonal problems.

      The only way ECT could ever be considered to work is that it erases memory good and bad. Some people’s memory of abuse is crippling. Sue Cunliffe is not advocating stopping ECT altogether because she was once a doctor herself. She wants machines improved and the practice given with informed consent and all those damaged compensated and heard. I do so agree with her and I am so sorry she is suffering so much. However I have witnessed so much suffering. Also I suffer so much myself and so does my son.

      There are no straight forward answers in helping the psychologically wounded and no cures for illnesses that don’t exist. People suffer though and seek help. Not everybody can be helped and some come away from treatment more damaged. Sometimes though and people on here don’t want to hear this sometimes people feel their suffering is alleviated by treatment. At present there are few alternatives for the likes of me and my son.

      We dont have sanctuary. And the treatment doesnt work for us. It seems doctors are in the privileged position to help those suffering. I’d say that most do the best they can with the tools they have. Psychiatry however is still primitive. Nobody has the answers.

      But the fact Dr Peter has never had a suicide makes me believe he helps the people he treats. That the man in fact might just have something.

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      • No Bippyone.
        I was referring to the woman Peter Breggin mentions at the end of his article. Sorry about the mess your family is in.

        I’ve escaped psychiatry but an forced to live in the boonies with my grouchy, critical mother. At 45 she treats me like I am 12. Totally isolated except for her and Dad. Suffering from 25 years on a cocktail so working–even part time is difficult. Plus there’s no ride to work and Mom discourages all efforts to find employment with her put downs.

        No housing anywhere. $770 a month is not enough for rent even in my state. Plus if HUD opens Mom insists it must be within less than 25 miles of her and Dad. Now and then she says I should go to a “home” but there are none available. (Thank goodness.)

        I have heard of women like me who made remarkable improvements when the mommy they “couldn’t live without” died. I think of this and feel guilty. Hopefully I can escape before then.

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        • Rachel, you said:
          ” if HUD opens Mom insists it must be within less than 25 miles of her and Dad.”

          So what if Mom “insists”? Does she wield any actual power over you, like a conservatorship? Or does she just become (more) emotionally manipulative and unpleasant? If she holds actual power over you, thst’s one thing. Then her “insistence” holds weight, but if it’s just the risk of ruffling her feathers, ruffle away! Far away.

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          • Transportation is the real issue. I will have to make any plans while visiting friends in another city. I live out in an isolated rural area 5 miles from the nearest town of 1400 people. I can’t drive.

            I depend on my folks to get everywhere. Was not allowed to get a license at 16 and Mom used my “diagnosis” later as a reason for me never to drive.

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        • Hope you can find your way not to feel guilty about your thoughts. There is no harm to thinking thoughts, as long as you don’t act on them. There are lots and lots of people who have similar fantasies, as well as parents with thoughts about killing their children. My wife and I always share our brief homicidal impulses with each other – most of the time, we just laugh about it!

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  5. Thank you, Dr. Breggin. My mother and I both had many ECT treatments—My mother said they helped her, but she was also very drugged and over-medicated. I agreed to them for one reason: I was desperately tired of suicidal thoughts; no medication had worked for me after trying many, many kinds. Now I honestly believe that I felt suicidal because of the numbing effects of the drugs—and no one told me that they could cause psychic numbing. Once a person enters the rabbit hole of western psychiatric care, they are in a perilous place. Now I tell everyone how dangerous ECT is and that I would never do it again—-I still don’t know if people believe me when I talk about harm.

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  6. ECT “works” by injuring, by damaging, the brain. Presently it, brain damage, is being billed as a “safe and effective treatment” for depression. If objecting to brain damage is “polarizing”, I would suggest that not objecting is, as it is an unethical practice, much worse. “Safe and effective” electricity induced grand mal seizure has got to be a whopper of an oxymoron. Some people will be duped, but doctors shouldn’t be duping people, should they? A “healing technique” that “works” by injuring an organ of the body shouldn’t be called a “healing technique”. If honesty should be the way past this “polarization”. let’s be honest about matters, what we’ve actually got with ECT is a “damaging technique”.

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    • Yes, ECT damages the brain. On the other side, no one thinks that people with epilepsy are helped by having grand mal seizures, so why should such a seizure help anyone with depression? The problem of emotional distress is not a malfunction of the brain—it is a problem of some kind of injury to the spirit. No electricity or drug can help that. Sadly, the medical paradigm is pretty solidly believed, except by some of us who have experienced it and come to believe in another way to wellness.

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    • When people have grand mal seizures in any other context, doctors will do anything they can to stop them. It is known that people with seizure disorders experience brain damage if the seizures are not controlled. Why on earth would anyone expect that inducing a seizure would have a different effect?

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      • A few years ago I attended a meeting where I work. It was devoted to singing the praises of shock. I refuse to call it ECT since it’s not a treatment at all but a barbaric torture. Anyway, at the end of the talk when people could ask questions I posed this very one. Why is it that all other medical specialties try to keep people from having seizures while psychiatry induces them in the name of treatment. The young psychiatrist smugly looked at me, smiled, and then said, “But the seizures that we induce are different from regular seizures!” I looked at him with my mouth open since I couldn’t believe that someone would blatantly lie in front of an entire crowd of people. He claimed that no harm is done when you send electricity through a person’s brain!

        At that point I began stating some criticisms of shock and the entire room broke out in shouts and yelling against me. One psychiatrist was so angry that he was actually spitting saliva when he talked. One person even yelled out, “Does that guy work here?”, since we were at the “hospital” where I work. It was unbelievable to say the least.

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        • I wish I were surprised by this. Good for you for having the guts to speak up! The idea that they are somehow able to induce “different” seizures is beyond comprehension. Do the other doctors really BELIEVE this? Or are they in on the not-so-funny “joke?”

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          • I can’t answer your question. It’s one that I keep mulling over and over in my mind. Either these guys are totally clueless and don’t keep up with their education, or they are really terrible people who’re are hurting people and destroying their lives for their own gain and benefit. I watch them on a daily basis and they seem to be ok people, but they keep forcing people to take these harmful drugs. I don’t know.

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          • I knew a man called Dave who believed God was telling him to become President of the USA in 1988. Dave was treated badly by all but my Dad and one or two others. To keep from feeling like a loser Dave NEEDED to hear voices telling him he was special and would be President someday. The reality would be too painful to face. So he had “delusions” and lived in denial of reality.

            Nowadays there are doctors who desperately NEED electro shocks to work because this will prove their medical specialty is legitimate and this “surgery” shows they’re more than glorified drug dealers. Plus they hate the idea that all they do is cause random acts of brain damage for “help.” The reality is too painful to face. So they have “delusions” that they’re helping their victims and live in denial of reality.

            Yet Dave was crazy and the doctors are considered sane.

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  7. Dr. Breggin, I read “Toxic Psychiatry” in late 1991, or 1992. I was heading in that direction, anyway.
    I don’t want to sound all “hero worship” here, but YOU, Dr. Breggin, and that book, were key to literally saving my life. (Plus getting sober, off drugs, 1,000’s of A.A. meetings, the 12 Steps, Buddhism, a few excellent clinical psychologists, daily exercise, etc., etc.,…)
    I hesitate to ask this question, which I’ve pondered for years, but have NEVER seen addressed.
    Surely I’m NOT the first, or only person to wonder this! So here goes:
    “Is it possible, that some, or all, persons who *claim* to be “helped” by ECT, did NOT in fact receive it….????…. I mean, *WHAT* *IF* they were sedated for the “procedure”, the equipment was applied, but no actual current or voltage was applied? Or only the absolute minimum? In effect, they were “given” a deliberate placebo procedure, and the “benefit” was 100% placebo? Is that possible?
    One of my best friends was given ECT, under Mom’s pressure, over 15 years ago. I have always believed that there is SOME detectable damage, but she denies ANY effect. The psych drugs she’s forced to take are clearly doing more harm than good. So how could ANYBODY differentiate the ECT damage from the neuroleptic damage?
    “ECT” = Electro-Cution Torture….

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  8. This latest blog by an ECT proponent throws shade at Dr. Breggin, embraces the lunacy of the latest reclassification of ECT devices and trumpets “safety and efficacy”. Reading the FDA comments that little evidence of damage exists and problems with memory resolve is sickening. The FDA that threw about 2800 negative victim testimonials in the garbage can and relied on useless, biased, badly constructed, industry funded and shock dr run “studies” of shock to defend or justifythe Class II.
    Encountered 8 pro-shock doctors on twitter discussing ECT that were rabidly defending this torture and rude and dismissive of victims of shock trying to inform and educate them.
    Right now we have ECT injured Sue Cunliffe trying to protect future victims of harm by taking on rcpsych and trying to dialogue with its president. She has little help but for a principled reporter and another shock advocate. Why aren’t neurologists and other doctors stepping u to help? Where are the women’s rights groups and the brain injury associations? Silent. No one seems to care. Sue has taken this to an MP willing to listen, so perhaps there is some progress.
    Why aren’t the 92% of psychiatrists who don’t use shock shutting down the bullies/brain damagers who do use it?


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  9. Thank you for your important work, and tireless dedication to integrity.
    This blog is very powerful. I had some thoughts on potential additional dynamics at play in regards to the email exchange. Our moral compass and common sense tells us that ECT should without a shred of doubt be eliminated, so why would “enlightened” mental health professionals, or mental health professionals educated on psychiatric abuse, disagree? If you think about it, that doesn’t really make sense on the surface. I am not a mind reader of course, but one hypothesis I have is that this is in part motivated by cognitive dissonance. Perhaps these mental health professionals have unconscious guilt, shame and subsequent trauma around the injustice, violence, and overall harm they perpetuated before becoming “enlightened”. Maybe they are still participating in some of these abuses. Maybe they were always educated or “enlightened” on the reality of psychiatric abuse but made the choice to participate in it anyway.

    Through the lens of guilt and shame, the truth of their legacy is seen as a threat to their identity, which may be tied to their sense of “status” and “being a good person”. Of course this lens could be further muddied by mentalism, group think, residual indoctrination, plain willful ignorance, and a variety of other factors, so shedding light on this could bring about the dissonance or feeling of “discomfort. This dissonance or “discomfort” is then remedied by attempting to make a straw man out of a legitimate position on ECT, claiming it is “polarizing” or “going overboard”, the way environmentalists are referred to as “hippies” in a derogatory manner, or psychiatric survivors are called mentalist slurs when speaking out against the abuses of the mental health system.

    I imagine on some level, they know their arguments aren’t completely genuine and are more accurately unconscious defense mechanisms and “self justifications”. If any of what I am saying is playing a role in this, I hope that they give themselves the opportunity to see past this lens, work through any of their own traumas, and help bring about true justice for those who have been abused and oppressed by the mental health system.

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    • I just read this blog again and felt very compelled to say something else, as there was an important detail I missed. There was a person on the email correspondence who said it is “fashionable to criticize ECT but all treatments have their pros and cons.” What is being said there is extremely dangerous. A position against psychiatric violence or oppression of any form for that matter isn’t a fad. Activism and social justice aren’t trends. Framing it that way means it could otherwise be “out”. If this were a conversation about violence against women, and someone implied that the only reason people ever took a stance against domestic violence was because it was “trendy”, and claimed it could actually help women “stay in line”, people would be justifiably outraged.

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  10. I have never encountered abuse from doctors except my family GP. Psychiatrists have to decide about who are the walking wounded and those critically insane.

    Shock treatment works by erasing memory and should only be used as a last resort. Some memories are so painful and are constant. It works for people like this.

    I’d say in the UK it is safe enough but like I say it works by damaging memory

    I know it helps critical people.

    I had it and my husband had it. My memory is fine so was his.

    It takes experienced doctors nurses and anathetists to carry out the procedure.

    I found it helpful for a few hours after until my memory came back. I’m glad I wasn’t permanently damaged if I was I would be disraught. This is the risk you take.

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    • What the psychiatrists are doing when they expose people to shock is literally causing a seizure to happen. Seizures are detrimental to the human brain. This is why every other medical specialty strives to keep people from having seizures. These are not treatments. You can get the same effect by hitting someone in the head with a baseball bat and inducing a traumatic brain injury. Older women are the prime targets for shock, especially those who are grieving about the death of a husband or other loved one. It is not treatment.

      I’ve encountered five psychiatrists. Out of the five two were outright abusive, one was totally ineffective as a healer, one was very patronizing, and one was truly helpful. The truly helpful listened to me rather than drugging me and turning me into a zombie. Those who shock people like to act like they know what’s going on but they don’t have a clue. And they get paid very well for what they’re doing to people.

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  11. I am one of the many who have been harmed by ECT. My last ECT treatment was in December 1999 and between March 1998 and December 1999 I had around 30 ECT treatments.

    I have permanent memory loss that has never returned, and it didn’t help with my mood at all. I vividly recall one treatment, coming out of the anesthetic in recovery and crying – feeling worse than I did beforehand.

    The hospitals I had ECT at were assembly lines with doing 12 to 15 patients back to back three times a week. It’s horrifying that this continues and that people defend this barbaric practice.

    I’d also like to add that the state of mine I was in when I agreed to it, was not a state of mind that I could provide true consent in. I felt I was a hopeless case, and there were no other options. Little did I know that the meds were what had started the cycle in the first place and I was sick because of the original antidepressant I’d been put on.

    I hope that psychiatry listens to more victims and changes course. Unfortunately, history says that psychiatry in general is more interested in staying in business than in considering that their treatments are the source of so much harm.

    I’m grateful for thought leaders like Dr. Breggin who are willing to put their name on the line to speak up about the harms traditional psychiatry does to unsuspecting patients.

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  12. I’m very concerned that ECT continues to be performed on children. A little Googling turns up articles cheerleading the practice, urging that MORE children be subject to it, and chiding anyone who dares to question it:

    Even the science press has jumped on the bandwagon with uncritical articles:

    The articles above are from a few years ago. But more recent articles seem to show that ECT is being encouraged for a new use: on children with autism.


    Strikingly, the consensus seems to be that ECT is only appropriate for the most intransigent “cases,” and yet the way researchers and psychiatrists praise it one wonders if it’s only a matter of time before ECT is used as an early intervention.

    Dr. Breggin, how about writing a blog on ECT and kids?

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    • Do these “scientists” have any theory of how ECT is supposed to help people? Or is it just “We don’t know how it works but we know it does (because we really want it to and it shows we’re more than drug dealers)”?

      They seem SHOCKED at the idea that brain damage occurs or claim it’s minimal. Get real. No brain damage means it’s not working.

      Psychiatry “helps” people in emotional distress by shutting off or destroying random parts of the brain. Nothing has changed since they started drilling holes in people’s heads or ice pick lobotomies. Just better PR and bribing the right people. 😛 And they’re crippling and killing a lot of people who would have been safe from their cruelty a few years ago.

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      • Rachel777 I beg to differ thanks to people like Dr Breggin we have come a long way since lobotomy and drilling holes in people’s brains.

        Psychiatry although not many new treatment methods have been discovered has moved on. My MHT has improved here in the UK there is a crisis team, help for armed forces and help for children.

        When I first consulted a psychiatrist I was prescribed high doses of meds. Now it’s much less.

        There used to be huge occupational departments in hospitals now this service is less but we have tv’s in our rooms and although for security we are locked in we are allowed escorted leave then can go out by ourselves. The food is good although nurses have more red tape to deal with when they could be with patients.

        The last hospital I was in was a lovely place and so suicide proof.

        You do have a choice whether to take medication they can’t force you once discharged. They don’t keep you in hospital longer than they have to.

        Shock treatment is only used as a last resort.

        You do know when you feel better or not. You do have a choice and thanks to people like Dr Peter withdrawals can be safe. My psychiatrist says it’s my choice.

        I choose to be on the med. It helps me sleep. I don’t suffer voices anymore my condition has improved.

        I am not waiting for some cure to keep from having psychosis is my goal. I was free from admission while taking the drug. I get support

        I’m sorry your experiences aren’t the same as mine. I am not a walking wounded.

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          • I always thought those “last resort” arguments were BS, and just one more excuse for putting up with the intolerable. You don’t hear a lot of people arguing for “next to last resorts”. They don’t have to do so. It’s these “last resorts” that they are sentimental about, and find themselves so reluctant, in defiance of reason, to depart with. By calling them a “last resort”, atrocities are made acceptable.

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          • I agree. Calling something a “last resort” is admitting that you’re desperate and don’t know what else to do. Any “medical” person in a state of despair will no longer be providing ME service, that’s for sure! I’d much prefer if the person says, “I’m not sure what to do that would help you” than have them engaging in some desperate “treatment” that might kill me or leave me wishing that it had.

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        • I withdrew by fleeing. No medical help at all. In the USA involuntary shock is standard care. If the authorities knew where I was I could be dragged back. My body can no longer process food properly so I need iron infusions regularly.

          The drugs did not help me. They amplified the voices, killed all pleasure, made my weight double, and caused seizures. But no one listens to stories like mine or countless others. Time for OUR voices to be heard!

          It’s good you think what they did to you was helpful Bippy. Many of us are not pleased and MIA is one of the few places we can express less than worshipful sentiments toward psychiatry’s random acts of brain damage.

          I guess if they damage the right part of the brain the “patient” will stop thinking painful thoughts. And lobotomies are making a comeback according to Live Science August 14, 2018. But it’s “better” because it’s done with lazars so it looks more scientific.

          While lobotomies were hip and trendy they compared psych drugs to lobotomies. Nowadays people call that “pill shaming.” Yet the principles remain the same. Where would psychiatry be without its public relations team?

          I’m angry they lied to me about a “metaphor” the inner circle tries to pass off as a joke. The Chemical Imbalance Legend is not funny Dr. Pies!

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  13. I totally agree with Dr. Breggin. We were trying to get this done in Berkeley back in the early 1980s. After all these years and all the studies showing harm, it is almost beyond comprehension that anyone would still be willing to defend this practice. It only shows how demented a few fanatics can become. Yes, please, let’s get ECT fully banned!

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  14. 175 years of Brain Damage
    175 years of Sadistic Eugenics
    175 years of Creating Mental Anguish
    Mind Control, Thought Reform, Brainwashing, Neurotoxins
    Lobotomy, Ice Baths, Insulin Coma, ECT, Neuropoison, Restraints,
    Confrontational Attack Therapy, insert your nightmare here
    DNA specific psychotropics. Compassion never occurred to the psychopath.

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    • Ban involuntary psycho-surgery and drugs. If someone wants their brain damaged and ignores information put out that all ECT and drugs are is brain damage, it’s their brains being mutilated.

      Sad. But Dr. K’s article would apply to people seeking easy answers for problems with living.

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      • I was convinced to try ECT by my husband after he watched that dreaded TED Talk by Professor Sherwin Nuland; may he rot in whatever Hell he subscribed to during his miserable lifetime.

        I have heard others who also were convinced after watching his video. Frankly, TED lost all my respect after this. This is not an idea worth spreading and they are directly contributing to the harm of many by keeping his talk available to the masses. I will never watch another TED talk. It’s proven itself to merely be another propaganda delivery method.

        I don’t think I “deserved” the damage that was inflicted on myself or my family simply because I believed someone who had been given such a large platform to spread his harmful idea.

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        • We should have our own anti-TED or straight talks. TED is an exercise in kiss-ass academics. There are all these qualifications involved for nothing besides kissing ass. People will tell people what they want to hear while the inconvenient truth resides elsewhere. TED is just another ribbon on an student associate professor’s chest on the way to tenure. Beep that!

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        • Sorry KS. You needed and deserved info that wasn’t there.

          But what about people like the blogger at Bipolar Burble who get mad at us, and want to have us all locked up because she’s scared of having her “meds” taken away? People throwing tantrums for shocks, drugs and labels?

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        • I was convinced ECT was a good idea by the same nasty, inaccurate, stupid, and evil video. Nuland could have been given sham ECT for all we know or he knows and the shocks were much lower voltage in the 1970’s.
          I contacted TED talks to request they remove the video or add a warning about permanent memory loss and brain damage from this lunatic procedure. They refused.
          How many other family members and potential victims sucked in by this piece of garbage? Same goes for Kitty D interview by Anderson Cooper on 60 Minutes. No risks presented. Propaganda. Kitty appears dazed and confused; in a diff video she doesn’t even know how old she is. Cooper should be ashamed of himself.

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          • Anderson Cooper is a mouthpiece for the establishment and exists to fill the gay pretty boy niche for the Clinton News Network’s white liberal viewership.

            Whether it’s BBC, RT, or AlJezeera, you’ll find more truth if you ditch what passes for American mainstream corporate journalism, and that scorn includes our corporate funded National Propaganda Radio.

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          • What if a change.org petition were put out to have the TED talk taken down or something to that effect? I would sign it. I know that is not a solution to the multitude of issues with TED being described. Even if the petition didn’t result in the talk being taken down, it could potentially bring more visibility to this issue, while putting pressure on TED to rethink the abuse of their platform.

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  15. At 140 Volts and in seconds, electricity causes tears in your brain. That was the testimony for the last lawsuit by an engineer from MIT against an ECT manufacturer mentioned on this website. When is tears in your brain a good thing is what I need to know because the ECT equipment electricity range is between 260 Volts to 460 Volts. I can’t see what good can become of damaging one’s brain.

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    • KLD3019, the idea of a petition on change.org requesting removal of the Nuland TED talk, especially in the light of recent admissions about damage is an excellent idea.
      Anyone here up for for doing that? My brn dmg limits me in taking on this task, but would sign if petition were set up…

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  16. Taking away memory by any means is a good thing from some critically emotionally wounded people. You cannot deny them this help. I received 4 to 5 sessions of ECT in the 1980s. It took away my memory and while it did that I was in a very happy state. Then my memory came back and the horror of life hit me.

    It takes professional anethetists, trained nurses and doctors to administer ECT. I never suffered any permanent brain damage. Neither did my husband. My son has never been given ECT and I doubt he ever will.

    Those on the actual front line of psychiatry see remarkable responses in their patients.

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    • So you would gladly give up another memory like your wedding day, or the birth of your child? How about the ability to read? How about your knowledge to earn income? These are actual examples: Sue Cunliff used to be a doctor and can no longer practice or another who has lost the memories of ever meeting and falling in love with her husband, another poor soul I have met. You cannot select what memories get erased.

      Or better yet how about this: may I suggest Logotherapy. Please read “Man’s search for Meaning” by Victor Frankl. It shows you how to change your prospective on your “bad memory”. Wouldn’t you rather select a memory and how to look at it than leave up to chance what memories electricity erases. What I find disturbing is that you agree that this “bad” memory is gone but argue that permanent brain damage has not taken place. The thing is that they do not monitor any cognitive abilities after ECT because it would definitively prove that brain damage is what takes place and it is permanent.

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    • My ex boyfriend never experienced a reaction to seldane and it was the only medication that ever proved adequate for his rhinitis, which was severe. He was bitterly angry that the FDA withdrew it from the market in 1997.

      Darvocet is the only narcotic pain reliever I can tolerate but it was removed from the market in 2010. I can’t take NSAIDS because they damaged my stomach severely and I can’t stand the effect of other opioids. I did not get a choice to continue taking the one pain medication that worked for me. But that’s how the FDA is supposed to work, unfortunately for me in this case.

      Decisions made by federal authorities are supposed to be for the benefit of the masses to protect from widespread harm even if a select patient group isn’t significantly harmed or doesn’t mind being brain damaged in order to avoid having to process painful memories.

      I’m sorry if that sounds harsh, but your right to inflict a brain damaging operation on yourself doesn’t supercede the rights of others to be protected from such barbarity.

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  17. I noticed a couple of comments regarding ECT and memory erasure… It is true, it does do that. However you do not get to pick the memories taken. Memories are the core of who you are. It would be lovely not to have some of the pain that eventually convinced me (along with an array of professionals) that ‘yes this can fix me.’ However, that pain is what makes me. Memory loss can be highly severe, my doctor asked me if I still had control of my bowels (we were discussing my memory issues) since another one his other patients had ECT and now can no longer remember when to use the restroom. I have lost memories and a broken off tooth that is getting removed from how heavy the seizure was. Their brain is that short circuited. The unpredictability of the side effects what they can do from person to person is much more dangerous than any “benefit” which might come from it.

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  18. Like I say it takes professionals and training to carry it out. As for not erasing bad memories and maybe erasing good I didn’t find this. I lost all memory and was happy to start afresh. And learn again. I had such horrendous memories at the time and even now my memories are bad. I forgot where I was which helped tremendously as i had just spent months in hospital. I never forgot how to drink or how to use the toilet. I never had the privilege of becoming a doctor but I could never be a nurse or legal secretary again. Not because i lost my memory but because of the labelling. I’d say psychiatry can’t control the media. And a lot of it is fake.

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  19. Dr. Breggin–

    Thanks so much for all of your very brave and important work. The world would surely be a poorer place without your influence.

    I do find this article a little short and with a lot to be desired.

    For example, you say:
    “Protecting the Feelings of People Who Don’t Know They Are Harmed?
    What about the sensibilities of people who think they have been helped by ECT? I frequently am consulted by people who feel they have been injured by ECT or drugs.”

    You never speak to how to deal with those who feel they’ve been helped, only the ones knowing they were harmed. A knowing omission of yours?

    The topic of how to deal with polarized situations is very important. In preaching to the choir, MIA, for example, there is little problem. But how do you persuade those on the opposite end of the polarity? This is what I do and feel it’s very important in bringing real change.

    Here is a partial answer by Akiko Hart:
    “Pursuing choice, not truth: debates around diagnosis in mental health”

    My feeling is that you are here pursing truth, which often does not win out.

    Looking at how one does persuade people, in general, one finds many articles, and this would be a good topic for the editors of MIA to pick up on for a future article, in my opinion. Getting by cognitive bias, for example.

    Did you know one’s personality is more important than the facts they spout? Gaining the friendship of others goes a long way. For journalists, broadening the issue, opening it up to complexity, provides inclusion of both polarities.

    Another strategy is to open with a statement from the other side and go on to show why it’s wrong before launching into a full on argument.

    My wish, Dr. Breggin, is you write a longer article that shows us how to be effective rather than just preaching to the choir.

    Thank you, sir!

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    • You never talk to people who feel they have been harmed, only helped Don?

      You accuse Dr. Breggin of knowing omission? I know I would feel safe enough with someone like him to share things most psychiatrists laugh off or blame on the “patient.”

      I was accused of faking seizures, tardive psychosis, etc. Learned early on to keep “side effects” to myself. Even if they were supposed to be reported no one wanted to hear them or would listen to one of us.

      Never had shocks but they sound horrid. Weird how seizures–by drugs or psycho-surgery are supposed to be good for the SMi but not Real People who count.

      Lebensunwertes Leben.

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  20. Yes I so agree Don. The dilemma doctors have is deciding what actually is ailing a person. Is it because they are suffering from life’s events or are they suffering from severe insanity ie delusions psychosis voices or mania.

    These sufferings are very similar although should be treated differently. One is caused through life’s events one is a condition of the brain. They are similar in appearance but not the same. You have to diagnose when your a doctor even Dr Peter has to do that.

    The prognosis for the walking wounded is more optimistic than my prognosis. Treatment should be different but it is common to treat everyone the same. You can’t.

    Like with all medicines people react differently. Some people cannot tolerate even coffee. Tests have to be given. There are no tests at the moment.

    I have a friend who formed a charity Chy Sawel in Cornwall and she believes in orthomolecular testing

    I believe this should be carried out before any treatment is given by psychiatrists.

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  21. You can’t leave the walking wounded and those severely insane without treatment. This is inhumane. My friend Sandra Breakspeare has formed a charity Chy Sawel and wants to test people by using orthomolecular testing.

    This is the way forward for everyone. If I ever won the lottery i would give her £500,000 so she could open her center.

    At the moment psychiatry has no tests even Dr Peter has no tests. To me Sandra in her plight to help her son has found the answer.


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    • I think the problem with your statement is the word “treatment.” People deserve HELP, but the term “treatment” redefines these issues as medical problems and invalidates the reality that trauma, pain, physical illness and social conditions all impact what is defined as “mental illness.” This may be very different from what you’ve been told or read about, but that’s because most people seem to have bought into this very idea that “mental illnesses” are something a psychiatrist can measure and identify and “treat.” You just stated yourself that there are no tests. To me, this means that “diagnosis” is completely subjective and could be given to anyone for any reason. Which means the “treatment,” including ECT, can be given to anyone for any reason.

      I think the link you provide is moving more in the right direction – nutrition, exercise, change of environment, listening, all of these serve to return the power to the person with the problem. Drugs and electrically-induced seizures do nothing but damage the brain and do essentially nothing to help the person even figure out what’s going on, let alone what the person can do about it.

      So by all means, let’s offer help and support to anyone who is suffering! But there is no need to redefine their suffering as a “disease” nor the helping as “treatment.” Let’s just call it helping each other out!

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  22. It is interesting to how this conversation took off!
    The missing link is the problem of really knowing what causes actual mental health issues, knowing workable ways to treat those causes in people, and thinking that the existing “experts” are trying to come up with better answers.
    Psychiatry’s track record is pretty clear at this point. Sure there may be individual psychiatric-trained doctors who understand how wrong it is to push expensive drugs on people just because they can’t get their minds off some loss. Those “good guys” are not being supported by their professional organizations. Those professions, those organizations, and those “experts” are not, unfortunately, leading us on the road to a brighter future. That’s the first problem to confront.
    So, what they have actually done is demonize workable treatments that don’t benefit them. I bought a bottle of multivitamins the other day, and there is a medical warning on it for pregnant women and other “at risk” groups. It doesn’t say what agency mandated this warning. As far as I know, micronutrients have never caused any significant harm to anyone – ever! They also demonize most other forms of workable treatment. And so these “experts” are actively seeking to prevent us from knowing the truth.
    Thus, we are going to have to find out these answers for ourselves. I have a great source of answers, but it is very “controversial” so I usually don’t mention it directly. They are there. Maybe not ALL the answers to everything! But plenty of good answers. They don’t want us to have this knowledge. Don’t continue to rely on their “help.” It is false help!

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  23. I so agree Steve Mcrea don’t believe mental health issues are illnesses although I do believe brain chemicals are involved because i believe the brain does use chemicals in Neurotransmitters. But I don’t believe we know enough about how the brain works. There are also electrical components to brain waves. This is why psychiatrists use drugs and shock

    I think it’s a matter for re training doctors. I don’t think any doctor unless in a crisis should make on the spot diagnosis.

    I’d say yes loss is a big factor for people with these conditions. Whether it is an illness as such I really don’t think so like addiction isnt an illness.

    I think people need help and don’t know where to turn and doctors are available.

    I think Sandra has found an answer. I really wish I could get her started with her center. Her poor boy remains incarcerated. At least my boy doesnt spend long in hospital.

    In the future Sandra’s center will be opened. I wish it would be in our lifetimes.

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  24. Psyhiatric Treatments? I have had more harm then good! 17 years ago I was put on paroxetine or seroxat, Ok I had depression, Just carried on taking them, no doctor ever questioned if I still needed them until I got pregnant 10 years ago. Doing research decided not to carry on taking them during pregnancy and GP told me to come of them gradually over a 6 week period. Beginning of my horror story! Side effects where torture and I landed in a total state of hell. that all happened before my child was born. I felt like a dead body walking around with no soul and emotion left. From there I was put on so many other psychiatric drugs, none of them worked. Last resort of course was ECT, I still have to find my match or someone that can break my record! 50 ECT TREATMENTS IN 10 MONTHS TIME. And guess what, hardly changed anything! The only benefit for me was having the anestetic,, the highlight of the week !My brief escape from hell! Only going back on paroxitine I started to get better, well that says it all, my brain is addicted to it! And thanks to ECT after 10 years, the memory loss is still there and I lost a huge part of my existence. I want the good and sad memories back! Every time someone tells a story of the past, it frustrates me, it tells me what I have lost>
    Imagine you cannot even remember going to your own fathers funeral? Well who cares, they `treated` me and never looked back! I didn`t even enter in their statistics of `unsuccessful patients`

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    • I am so sorry! That is just awful! Your story is emblematic of exactly what is wrong with this whole idea of “broken brains.” There is no healing that way, only more and more damage. And I HATE how they minimize memory loss as no big deal, just a minor “side effect,” when it is evidence of brain damage and can ruin someone’s life. I know a survivor who can’t remember her own wedding. It is too sad for words, but it also pisses me off big time!

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  25. psychiatrists know what they’re doing. i don’t know how the current psychiatric text books are written, but the older ones–you know, the ones from -before- Google made it important to keep up the appearances of “providing compassion and help to the severely mentally ill”–were pretty ridiculously nihilistic and blunt. The neuroleptics were noted to cause “deactivation,” which included varying degrees of apathy, indifference, sedation, and a -loss of interest- in “symptoms,” but no real “help,” just…a chemical lobotomy, basically. Oh, or…”tranquilizer psychosis,” as some have called it…tremor, apathy, indifference, passivity, etc.

    kinda rambling, but…my point, and I think this is a point raised in the book version of Mad in America, is that -they knew- then and -they know- now that they’re inflicting torment and suffering upon people who are under the impression this is somehow going to help them be “normal” and/or lead a productive, meaningful life, by getting their “illness” under control.

    Truth? Even now, some psychiatrists will ramp up the neuroleptic dose to deliberately inflict a degree of obvious Parkinson’s – type symptoms. That’s an old technique that never had anything to do with helping the person/”patient”; it was and is an example of medical torture and putting patients into a mind-numbing chemical straitjacket, while charging $$$ for said punishment.

    im just…disgusted. then as now, the shock docs know they’re inflicting brain damage on people, they know full well that many will never make a meaningful ‘recovery from treatment’, and they’ll openly laugh about ‘breaking’ low status people/’patients’ (poor, stigmatized, effectively silenced individuals who have survived ‘treatment’), and yet…

    these -same- individuals will lie to insurance companies, medicare/medicaid, lie in court to commit another victim, lie to individuals and families about “treatment for mental illness…”

    and that’s just the tip of the iceberg. Iowa, I think, is the 1 state that has -0- “insanity pleas” or what have you, and a lot of it is just because in the few cases where the pleas came up, the lies from both sides (“insane” vs “responsible,” I’m guessing) made a mockery of an already flawed legal system.

    lies. Szasz’s last book is entitled Psychiatry: The Science of Lies. This EST (“ECT” is pure marketing genius, and its also another lie…electroSHOCK is what it really is, thank you Max Fink for your candor) situation is just another example of the mental health industry lying, lying, lying…

    for profit, for control, for status, for…fun? I find this sickening.

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  26. Yes, it is terrible psychiatrists are unwilling to take a rock-solid ethical stand and speak out against ECT.

    But even worse, are those who promote it and advocate for its use, like Dr. David Healy. Have heard not a word from him in the face of the lawsuits in CA being settled and Somatics admission their device causes “perm amnesia” and “perm brain damage”.
    Where is the retraction of the book “Shock”’s (with Ed Shorter) statement “permanent memory loss is a myth”?

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    • that’s why I consider my position more one of full on antipsychiatry (just…abolish it, please…) vs “critical psychiatry.” I wouldn’t say that the “critical psychiatry” people aren’t “radical enough,” its that…

      As Szasz pointed out, Mental Health, Inc. is The Science of Lies. He mostly targeted psychiatry, but I think psychoanalysis, counseling, etc. etc. etc. are also massive frauds, staffed by lying liars who lie, for fun and for profit (and control).

      Healy is a trained psychiatrist. If he wanted to, he could give up his lucrative career of “critical psychiatry” and do…something else. Anything else, really. Analyzing and dissecting lies is an exercise in futility for most of those who have been labeled, drugged, shocked, operated on, etc…

      and I am beginning to think that pointing out the “excesses” of psychiatry and “reforming” the industry is the equivalent of a New Deal for Mental Health, Inc…it effectively silences the pissed off people and stabilizes the industry, as a whole.

      Honestly, given the massive cost$ and suffering, damage even to the freedom of (and clarity of) -thought- Mental Health, Inc. (which includes the electroSHOCKtreatments, EST “specialists,” etc.) has inflicted upon society as a whole…

      I do think abolishing the industry is probably the only truly humane, rational solution.

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      • Abolition is the only way to go, but how could that ever be achieved? The $$$ and power this sick construct has is overwhelming.
        Seriously, there hasn’t been anything but a growth in this industry of disablement and death.
        What would the steps toward abolition be? Critical and anti-psychiatry groups have achieved nothing-

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        • i -want- psychiatry and the rest of the lying professions abolished, but right now…

          i do me, and that’s often challenging enough. not that im against collective action–far from it– but the psychiatrized in society are, I’m thinking, kind of like the skilled slaves in the South, before The Civil War…

          some freedoms, less obvious torture…but “Know your place, damnit!” don’t rattle them chains, basically. and that I think is why a 21st century “antipsychiatry movement” might have to rely more on 21st century technologies…

          because no one really gets to march and protest without police brutality and/or criminal charges, at least not in the US…

          and those are people who -are not psychiatrized- . so, as I “do me,” as best I can…I’m thinking maybe a 21st century movement will be done more or less in stealth mode…

          the old models aren’t going to do much, I’m afraid. Uniting with other oppressed groups would be an ideal step–solidarity is an underused word in today’s world–but I find that even the sociologists, the activists, the muckracking writer and journalists…

          speak in DSM/ICD-code. Personally, reading up on stigma and how to manage a stigmatized identity, “play the hand you’re dealt,” basically…has been quite helpful. Each individual’s circumstances, each person’s role(s) are somewhat unique (“the personal is political” applies, always, but also: “Your mileage may vary”), so person-to-person support and networking are probably going to be vital.

          I’m not any sort of expert..this is all off the top of my head, as they say.

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  27. Well said and written, just realised about that ECT machine maker admission thing, in a way, the judge might have been saying, cause the judge didn’t say you can’t do it anymore, maybe he was saying,”no worries, as long as you admit it causes Permanent Brain Damage”, pay the fine, and put a warning on your ECT machine, & provide a side effect warning pamphlet, to the patients or public, zap away, and figured he’d done his job. Could that be another reason, apart from what has to be the “GUILT” they must be feeling, 80 years of it, and why their pretending, saying, they don’t believe the machine makers, manufacturers, about their Permanent Brain Damage admission. I mean after that admission, none of them should even be wanting to do it, let alone continuing to promote it. And if they perform it against anyone’s wishes, because of the admission, it should be a criminal offense, automatically, of assault and battery, as in, to “knowingly” cause brain injury, or permanent brain damage.

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  28. Jan.16th I almost died in a high speed car accident . A teenager was texting , speeding , and must of been on something strong to cross into oncoming traffic at a sharp angle to find me . My Toyota Tacoma pick-up truck was totaled , the woman I love , her right arm shattered the left badly sprained her body black and blue . My right leg below middle calf shattered , my left foot the heel bone turned into powder. A crack in my T6 vertebrae . A 90 mile ambulance ride for both of us to Eugene Or. for emergency orthopedic surgery.
    While I laid in pain in the emergency room a psychiatrist was there questioning me , extremely harassing me and threatening me . He acted like a Gestapo from out of some World War ll movie . I wasn’t dreaming It all really happened . Three days ago March 12,2019 I paid someone $270 to get me to my mobile home along with my scooter , wheelchair , walker , and cane . My woman is at her mother’s house being cared for . My dog is at a volunteer shelter . I can only stand for about 15 minutes a day . I believe life will get better again. They want to do more surgery on my spine maybe , on my right leg for sure . Even though the surgeons saved my life for which I am grateful , I’m done with them . After all they have that pile of shit psychiatrist whom they respect waiting for me . I’m here in my mobile home fending for myself as free as I can be . I did meet with a naturopath with 49 years of experience .He thought the psychiatrist should be buggy whipped .
    Now that I think about it , psychiatry ala Jaws is like an over large school of great white sharks with support systems and we need a fleet of bigger boats cause they’re multiplying and showing up everywhere.
    If the electric shock machines are destroyed can they still electro shock people ?

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    • Fred, I’m so sorry to hear about this! My heart goes out to you and your partner. Damn you’ve been through so much. You are a strong, strong guy. Wishing you great healing. Do you have the help and support you need?

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    • Wow! Sorry Fred.
      What was Dr. Gestapo mad about? That you managed to escape and he would make you pay for doing so well?

      I have to see MDs for physical problems caused by the years on drugs. I have a “mental health” center I say I go to but don’t. Getting rid of my label is very important to me.

      Even here people laugh it off as no big deal. But until I get my “diagnosis” changed I’m not safe around any doctor and can be institutionalized if ever discovered. Being denied the rights of citizenship and possibly locked up without due process is no joke.

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