Questions About Forced ECT: A Letter for Minnesota Governor Tim Walz


Have you ever heard of activating a shield? I hadn’t. It sounds like something out of a sci-fi movie. I never knew “activating a shield” was a movement to protect people from unwanted psychiatric treatment until someone directly messaged me on twitter about “activating a shield” on behalf of Charles Helmer.

Who is Charles Helmer? He’s a young man, age 22, whose primary diagnosis is autism. His mother reports his behavior grew worse during toxic mold exposure. At that point he was involuntarily committed for psychiatric care on December 10, 2020.

Mr. Helmer has a history of ECT, which is why the court ordered more. On January 7, 2021, the state of Minnesota held an ECT hearing stating a diagnosis of schizophrenia and ordering ECT “three treatments per week for a maximum of 12 treatments, and if successful, a maintenance phase of 1 or fewer treatments for the duration of the commitment.

Apparently the state isn’t aware that in order to reduce ECT’s cognitive impact, Mr. Helmer’s maintenance ECT should be spaced at least 38.6 days apart. They’re not thinking of ECT’s long-term consequences, as warned about by the FDA and device manufacturers, who state “The long-term safety and effectiveness of ECT treatment has not been demonstrated, and long-term follow-up may be needed.

It was surprising to me that in the court ECT order, there’s no mention of his autism or previous antifungal medication to address toxic mold exposure. For me, a person with acute environmental sensitivities since my own ECT, I know mold can cause psychosis, behavioral and sleep problems in people with a history of brain injury. I have the same problem. But Minnesota doesn’t seem concerned that pulsed, high electric fields are not recognized by the FDA as a treatment for mold toxicity.

Mr. Helmer was originally mandated ECT treatment in January 2021 because he “lacked insight into his present state.” Clearly he had enough insight into his present situation to connect with a lawyer and a non-profit to “activate a shield” in an effort to protect himself from ECT.

Since the original ECT order, Mr. Helmer has been discharged from inpatient care. But, despite his no longer being involuntarily committed, he’s still mandated to receive ECT every other week—though the court order says ECT will last only for the duration of his commitment.

Historically, we know people receiving ECT who do not respond to psychiatric medication have a return of psychiatric symptoms within 4-8 days after ECT. For that reason, some psychiatrists use “maintenance ECT,” though the American Psychiatric Association and Somatics, LLC (manufacturers of the Thymatron ECT device) state that “larger numbers of treatments” are associated with permanent memory loss and permanent brain damage.

Living with a primary diagnosis of autism typically causes atypical neurological symptoms including sensory processing disorder. People without a history of autism who have a history of ECT frequently develop sound, light, and sensory sensitivity consistent with acquired brain injury. The idea that ECT could be therapeutic over the long-term for someone living with autism is simply not evidence-based.

I figured if there were something I could do to somehow spare him from crippling effects of worsening sensory processing disorder and the other massive health problems I endure as a direct consequence of psychiatric treatment, I had to do what no one did for me—intervene. I did so with a plea to the state about considering the longitudinal consequences of forced shock.

Clearly the state of Minnesota is using outdated research on ECT to determine treatment plans. Maybe if the state of Minnesota knew more about ECT’s risks, they could consider all risks, including the cost of long-term consequences, when making decisions on behalf of those in their care. For that reason I wrote to the Governor of Minnesota, Tim Walz. If Minnesota is going to mandate ECT, there are at least 20 questions they need to consider before proceeding.

Click here to read the full letter to Minnesota Governor Tim Walz.

Sarah Price Hancock’s ongoing petition to standardize, regulate, and audit shock treatments can be found here.


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. “You lack insight and are too stupid to know what is good for you so we are going to give you brain damage and cause cognitive impairment.” -Psychiatry.

    “Lack insight” is a euphemism for “won’t blindly obey psychiatrists and pay them money.”

    In fact in psychiatries PANSS psychotic scale you can be labeled psychotic simply for being hostile enough in your disagreement with psychiatry. Anyone know the definition of a death cult?

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      • Well something doesn’t look right. The emphasis is on involuntary treatment for some perceived difference in this man’s beliefs or behavior. Is this an offense punishable by law?
        So I accessed the Minnesota Revised Statutes ( Here, there is a list of “conditions” for which a citizen can lose lawful control of his own body. Almost every one of these requires “danger to self or others”. To use this law to deprive civil liberties, this danger must exist. Then what is the legal procedure? Is the person-object in the court’s cross-hairs served? Is his next of kin served? Who proves the offense? Absurdly, usually two medical doctors must testify to their opinions that the person in question is, indeed, a danger.

        Was this procedure followed according to the law? We’d need to see the court transcript to know this. However, absent that transcript, we’d have to use the words of the next of kin. However, it does appear that the law was far from correctly applied.

        The judge controls the forum. Was the judge accustomed to ignoring procedure? Who was served the summmons? If service was omitted, the notion of immediate need to prevent bodily harm might have been used, but correct and formal proceedings still are required soon after the arrest.

        Here is an idea: if no defense was allowed, the decision is not valid, but is it necessary to formally make these additional objections? If there was no service of summons, the case is moot. Of course the aggressors will try it again, but this time the accused will have had time to prepare.

        I remember the Shield from It isn’t airtight. In addition, by the time that the error is formally presented, the damage may already have occurred. Well at that point a diligent attorney might make the case for vacating the decision and then show assault and possibly intractable brain damage.
        My take-away: Guardians, instruct your charges with the facts so that the patient can present as normal and reasonable. Then find an attorney who can prepare before the damage is done. Prevention is far more effective than correcting flawed legal proceedings.
        A governor of any state should be embarrassed to have allowed this unsubstantiated accusation stand. Opinion is not evidence. Oh for shame!

        I understand that these horrific offenses occur every day. That doesn’t establish them as lawful. Having a medical condition is not equal to being a danger to self or others. Well that part is clearly missing from this case. Danger seems nit to have been proven. Something else remains unproven. That is the connection between a medical condition and correction by forcing voltage through a brain. Then there is the fourth Amendment.

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  2. Thank you Sarah.

    Obviously psychiatry, psychiatrists should intervene and stop the shocks and drugging.

    But he is clearly seen as a piece of garbage, not useful to society, and to kill slowly, is always okay in the eyes of the powers.

    Why shrinks still use that ridiculous phrase “lack of insight” is beyond me. Morons.

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    • A victim who is viewed by everyone else as too stupid to know anything, who therefore can’t be believed, who is an easy scapegoat for everyone, who has had their power removed, is the best kind of victim for the bully. A silenced person who won’t be listened to because they are “mentally ill” has less risk for the bully.
      Psychiatry insults their “patients” as mentally defective, stupid and lacking insight because it makes it harder for the victims of psychiatry to fight back and get justice. It makes it easier for a society to pressure and force people to get psychiatric services. Dehumanizing people makes it easier to force treatment on them because society believes they need it for “their own good”.

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  3. When the brain cannot easily be tampered with to get it “fixed”, why not just lift it up like one of those infuriating puzzles in a glass cube and see if shaking it to bits might snare the round ball of conformity into one of many tiny cups?

    On this very day, when my television tells me a vast hadron collider physics metropolis has smashed yet more vaccum cleaner dust together to find out what makes us all tick, we learn that this spacey science has discovered that an essential particle called a “muon” wobbles at unholy fast oscilations if treated to large blasts of magnetic field.

    In a few weeks I am to get an MRI brain scan. I believe these involve being bodily sucked into a vortex of magnetizm for an hour. Can anyone tell me if my “muons” will be ever settle back down again like spinning ball bearings in a puzzle cube? Any Breggin readers listening here? I would like reassurance an MRI is not as risky as that Transcranial gadget or ECT.

    The MRI scan I fought for is a bit of “personal research”, something no man nor breast is allowed to do. After feeling my brain alter from toxic pharmacuticals over the years I decided to conduct my own inquiry into possible brain damage. I swear the DSM has a number of descriptions reserved for people like me who are diagnosed with schizophrenia and who earnestly wish to know what has become of their brain after decades of poison. Subsequently my long awaited neuro boffin, who has the super power of “allowing” patients to check their brain in a scanner, spent alot of effort persuading all my doctors that I was instead concerned about my “breasts”. I never once mentioned my breasts to him in the clinic. That is because there is absolutely nothing wrong with them. I do not want to research my breasts. I want to see what antipsychotics have reduced my brain to. And comically I barely even want to know for myself. I’m done. I already know that without a brain scan. I want to know for all psychiatric survivors. It is a mission of mercy.

    History says that medieval consultants, in their ermine fur-lined cloaks, pondered ladies wandering wombs as a cause of hysterical emotionality…or just having any feelings at all, but as far as I am aware breasts were largely left to be an additional blessed detail in Virgin and Child altar paintings or squished into bodices like apples in a barrel. But to early medicine it seems wombs were deemed the culprit for insanity through wombs being worryingly bloody and mysterious, like the beaten incarcerated
    mad. I don’t know why my sad sweet breasts were a problem for the neuro magnate, with respect to offering me a brain scan. But he did copiously mention my schizophrenia so maybe my breasts cause my schizophrenia. If so, this could be the discovery of the century. Maybe science has been looking in the wrong place after all, when looking for the psychotic needle in a haystack, maybe it is not womanly wombs nor puzzling brains at all, but psychosis perhaps resides in the uncontrollable life loving exuberance of the breasts. The neuro doctor I saw confusingly seems to moonlight as a psychiatrist, which is odd, since I already have a psychiatrist and I did not ask for another psychiatrist. But maybe I should be sent to a gynecologist to check the offending breasts that may be making me hear voices. Or maybe my brain will shrink so much in due course that I will learn to function only through my breasts, like blind people adapt to sightlessness by fumbling lamposts with extra sensory ability in their fingers. Maybe my neuro doctor wanted to teach me how to use my breasts as two brains. Two for the price of one.

    You may be thinking I am snooty about my neuro doctor but in reality I prefer to love all human beings, even those who are muddled up.

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