National Mental Health Coalition Calls “Today Show” Electroshock Segment One-Sided
Coalition Recommends Balanced Coverage of Controversial Intervention
[Press Release August 22, 2013]
WASHINGTON, DC (8/22/13) – The National Coalition for Mental Health Recovery (NCMHR) urges “The Today Show” to provide balanced coverage of the risks of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), in which grand mal seizures are electrically induced, usually to treat severe depression.
The NCMHR is responding to a one-sided segment about ECT that “Today” ran on August 20, 2013.
“We are disappointed, especially because two NBC producers had sought out ECT survivors who could attest to the disabling effects of this controversial treatment,” says NCMHR director Lauren Spiro, who was diagnosed with chronic schizophrenia. “The producers were given contact information for five willing individuals, but chose not to include them.” The producers later called this an editorial decision.
Mental health advocates demand that potential ECT recipients be told the truth about the risk of disabling effects – including permanent memory loss and cognitive deficits – so they can make an informed choice. These risks have been confirmed by researchers such as Dr. Harold Sackeim, a well-known proponent of ECT, whose 2007 study in Neuropsychopharmacology concludes: “this study provides the first evidence in a large, prospective sample that adverse cognitive effects can persist for an extended period.”
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) continues to classify ECT equipment in its high-risk Class III category despite pressure from ECT equipment manufacturers to re-classify it into the lower-risk Class II.
ECT survivors speak about the devastating effects of ECT. In her acclaimed book, “Doctors of Deception: What They Don’t Want You to Know About Shock Treatment,” Linda Andre wrote, “Eventually you realize that years of your life have been erased, never to return. Worse, you find that your daily memory and mental abilities aren't what they were before.”
“The research is clear: ECT causes closed head injury, temporary euphoria, then return of depression but with enduring memory loss,” says psychiatrist and NCMHR board member Daniel Fisher, M.D., Ph.D. He noted that, while many may experience a lifting of depression, this is temporary, but the disabling effects are permanent. Also, many ECT survivors say their depression was exacerbated by the stress associated with their ECT-related cognitive disabilities.
“We recommend more media coverage of innovative, non-invasive, cost-effective mental health interventions, including ‘peer-run services’ delivered by people who have recovered from severe mental health issues,” says Spiro.
Contact: Lauren Spiro (via our contact form)
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