ECT: two stories

I recently came across two accounts of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) (one before and one after – though not the same person) that show very different viewpoints on the treatment. One, the before story, was from the United States and documented a father’s hope that the treatment would be a gateway to a better life for his eighteen-year-old daughter; the other, the after story, was from England and documented a young man’s experience of the treatment.

People raise money from gofundme for all sorts of things so perhaps I shouldn’t have been surprised to see someone raising funds for their daughter to undergo ECT. The total asked for was soon reached and exceeded. The appeal quotes a “90% success rate in treating depression resistant to prescription medication” which is probably optimistic in terms of a temporary reduction in symptoms and certainly optimistic in terms of the long-term protective benefits the family seem to be hoping for. What happened with the treatment? It doesn’t say, but a photograph on her father’s twitter account shows Abbie at a graduation ceremony so at least she is up and about.

The other story was that of a British man in his thirties who underwent ECT in an Essex hospital in 2015.

“I had tried a dozen different medications, yet I was still no better. It was at this point the consultant agreed I could have electroconvulsive therapy (ECT). I stayed in hospital for three months where I underwent 12 rounds of ECT, which involved passing an electric current through my head while under anaesthesia. After nine treatments, my mood started to lift. The only side-effects I had were some memory loss.”

What surprised me about this account was not so much the author’s fairly typical experience of ECT – temporary relief from symptoms accompanied by some memory loss – but the fact that there is a glossy magazine called Happiful  (“We’re on a mission to create a healthier, happier, more sustainable society. Our aim is to provide informative, inspiring and topical stories about mental health and wellbeing.“)

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