ECT: Is stigma preventing better care for depression?

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  • Diane Hutchinson says:

    Thank you for your informative and thoughtful reflection on ECT.
    I live in British Columbia Canada and feel inspired to share part of my story with you.
    Depression has been part of my life I believe since my birth when I was surrendered for adoption and placed in foster care. Not only have traumatic environmental factors impacted me throughout life, upon meeting my biological mother at 27 and having a relationship with her for just a few years, I believe hereditary factors are present as well.
    Skipping ahead, on October 1, 2017, I was attending the Route 91 Music Festival in Las Vegas Nevada with my boyfriend. He surprised me with the trip, two weeks after I completed an intensive two-month traumatic stress recovery program at a mental health treatment centre in Ontario.
    While enjoying the concert, shots began to ring out.
    My boyfriend, an RCMP officer, knew what to do and saved my life, along with many other lives.
    We were fortunate to survive the shooting massacre which ended 59 lives and injured more than 900 that night.
    Surviving such a horrific event however, brought about new challenges for my mental health and the mental health of my partner.
    In June 2018, my partner shot himself.
    I quickly began to spiral downward.
    By September I was hospitalized after sitting in my car, in my garage, contemplating starting the ignition and ending my life. I am a mother of two teenagers and thankfully had the foresight to seek help.
    I began my first acute course of ECT treatment shortly after.
    I believe around Christmas I relapsed and became suicidal again.
    This prompted a second complete round of ECT.
    My memory from September to now is still sparse, so specific dates and exact events are sketchy, but I just completed my second course of acute treatment and now am on a maintenance schedule which consists of treatment once a month.
    As with many things in science, they work, we just don’t know exactly how.
    I am not only alive but actually feeling happy and hopeful most of the time.
    I am starting a new job, part-time, as a wine tour guide in the beautiful Okanagan Valley.
    I honestly don’t think I would be here now if it weren’t for the amazing doctors and health care professionals at Kelowna General Hospital.
    I am 51 years old and over the course of my life have been prescribed at least 150 different psychiatric medications, 12 simultaneously.
    Now is the most stable, consistent and healthy I have been.
    I am blessed to live in a country where advanced medical healthcare is not only offered to everyone but affordable.
    I actually didn’t know ECT was still a treatment option, but fortunately, my psychiatrist ordered it and I would consider it a miraculous success!
    I have experienced the stigma you speak of from people not equipped with adequate modern medical knowledge, but this means nothing to me as it is my life being saved, not theirs.
    I welcome the opportunity to speak more openly and directly about my experience but don’t want to bore anyone with irrelevant details.
    Please contact me if you feel there would be any benefit in doing so.
    I feel part of my recovery and duty includes serving others and sharing my story with the hope it will help even one person.
    I look forward to your response.
    Sincerely and blessings,
    Diane Hutchinson

  • Erika Lange-Geyer says:

    Thank you for this article, I am severely depressed and anxious, and my meds have stopped working. I receive my first ECT treatment tomorrow, and you have alleviated my worry.

    • Jen says:

      Hi Erika
      I hope your treatment is going well. ECT has probably saved my life and am on a maintenance schedule of one treatment every 3 weeks. The stigma of ECT is so unfair. I manage to work part time and live a pretty normal life. Most people would be astounded if they knew I had regular ECT as it works well at maintaining my mood. Yes, it has taken me a long time to get to this place where I’m pretty stable but I hate the fact I have to hide it from people.
      All the best.

  • VH says:

    When I agreed to ECT, I couldn’t have cared less whether I lived or died, so its (unwarranted) reputation didn’t matter to me. I was warned about the short term memory loss, but in honesty hadn’t made that many memories within the time frame concerned. I like literally everybody at the clinic, and am starting to have a personality again, after literally six years (this time). I get a bit angry when I see people denigrate the treatment based on things they maybe read on the walls of public toilets, because I believe suicide has far more profound side effects. ECT isn’t offered to people who haven’t tried an awful lot of other things (including rTMS in my case: three times) and for good reason. I personally found the side effects of (ineffective) medication more difficult to work around than taking notes is.

  • Heda says:

    After being misdiagnosed and harmed in the ER I was put into a psych facility under the false pretense of mental illness. ECT done on me without my consent imo to disable any memory I was starting to regain about what was done to me medically in the ER and the rest. To further block things its been made sure I cannot get legit radiology reports to show the extent of the damage done to my body. Found out about illegally access of my medical records where a test was accessed and images replaced..

  • Deborah Schwartzkopff says:

    Class action filed around devices used in electroshock (ECT). Representation for Canadian ECT patients also in place. See on blog section with link to filing of suit.

    • June Merritt says:

      Deborah This is June Merritt
      I have tried and tried to find you. You sent a letter card picture to me 2 years ago, but I had no address for you on your letter. I hope you get this dear precious friend. I tried to find your phone number. I had nothing except you wrote this on the card you sent. ECT
      Wow…. you are quite involved and I had not idea about this being done to people. Why would they even invent such a thing to do this to the brain. I hope and pray your are find.
      Please email if you can to me I will get back to you. Love you. :}

  • Deborah Schwartzkopff says:

    National class action filed around devices used in electroshock. Devices called into question and so then is procedure. Anticipate a landslide of medical and nursing malpractice to come. That is my goal.

  • Deborah Schwartzkopff says:

    National class action suit around electroshock devices filed. Next we are going for medical malpractice suits. They know they are creating traumatic brain injuries by their own literature. Has been going on for decades. Psychiatry getting rich at expense of vulnerable patients. Media very interested in exposing this. Based in mechanism of injury/ trauma THEY have to prove it DOESN’T cause damages. I smell sweet justice in the air in a landslide of medical malpractice to come. See

  • Angela says:

    My 80yr mother was suffering from depression/anxiety, then the delusions began. Five different anti-depressants, over 16 wks. She was getting worse, down to 88 lbs, diapers, liquid diet. Meds were not working. We didn’t want to do ECT, but we were losing her. 12 treatments later, she is 100 lbs, no diapers, quality of life greatly improved. My mother is back. Thanks to ECT. I’m sharing her story, maybe I can help more people regain their life after depression/anxiety almost took her away.

  • Truth says:

    Calling it ECT is a joke, unless the T stands for torture and trauma. Shock always has and continues to cause brain damage. The most recent Canadian study shows it causes permanent cognitive and memory deficits in about one third of patients who also are unable to return to work. It is barbaric; it is an assault on a delicate brain; an assault on ones sense of self. Patients are rarely informed of the REAL risks of shock and the brain damage it causes. Nurses and doctors seem to be unaware that the stunned calming of patients or their mild euphoria are signs of brain injury, not “improvement” in mood. They need to stop lying to their victims and themselves.

  • TJ Smith says:

    Amazing article. I currently undergo ECT on a maintenance schedule now monthly. I have asked my Doctor if I can video record it to educate and end the stigma. This is a very accurate and excellent article!!!

    • Dr. Raymond W. Lam says:

      Thanks for sharing.

    • deborah schwartzkopff says:

      Electroshock class action suits are being reviewed by firms currently. This procedure produces acquired traumatic brain injuries similar to the NFL players only this mechanism of trauma is electrical verses blunt force trauma, but outcomes the same. In 1990 the APA decided together to withhold brain damage from consent. Emergency medicine, neurology, and even psychiatry in the dsm4 recognize electrical injury inducing Neuro/cognitive damages. Please see

      • Jana says:

        Very bad procedure. I can not express how cognitive damage b/o it can be called a treatment.

      • Jana says:

        If you divide the meaning of the word:”treatment” maybe you find something like that: “Meant to be a treat”.
        From my experience: it is induced Tragedy to human lives.
        I would like my preexistng normal brain life to be back.
        That is all I can think of.

      • Jackson says:

        I’m pretty sure my illness hasn’t left much room for anything else to do damage to my cognitive abilities. If I’m going to be frustrated and unable to live the life I was “suppose to have” I’d at least like to do it with some stability.

  • Gerry Goldlist says:

    The movie “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” really did a great disservice to patients and its effects have lasted 40 years. Too bad.

    • Jackson says:

      The exact reason I avoided seeking any form of care for a long time, and then avoided emergency services, and when I finally ended up for a short stay on an inpatient locked ward I realized that the only truth in that movie was that the ward was full of people who were misunderstood and were not getting enough help from overworked and distraught staff.


Wendy Glauser


Wendy is a freelance health and science journalist and a former staff reporter with Healthy Debate.

Joshua Tepper


Joshua Tepper is a family physician and the President and Chief Executive Officer of North York General Hospital. He is also a member of the Healthy Debate editorial board.

Mike Tierney


Mike is the Vice President of Clinical Programs at Ottawa Hospital.

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