Archive for May, 2007|Monthly archive page

much thanks to our allies

Many allied organizations made possible the highly successful demonstration against electroshock on Mothers Day. These include but are not limited to: Sistering; Centre for Women and Trans People at York University; Ontario Coalition Against Poverty; The Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/ Multicultural Women Against Rape; Lunatic Liberation Front; Mind Freedom International; School for Disability Studies at Ryerson University; Greenspiration; Resistance Against Psychiatry; The Centre for Women’s Studies in Education at OISE/UT; The Transformative Learning Centre at OISE/UT; Friendly Spike Theatre Band; Canadian Alliance for Rights in Health Care; Parkdale Community Legal Services; Street Health; Mad Students Guerillas; Women’s Counselling Referral and Education Centre; Action Autonomie; Call Us Crazy; York University Access Centre; Toronto Disaster Relief Committee; Ithaca Mental Patients Advocacy Coalition; Assaulted Women and Children Counsellor Advocate Program, George Brown College; Action Autonomie Montréal- Comité Pare-chocs;
Parkdale Activity and Recreation Centre, and Second Opinion Society

On behalf of CAPA, I would particularly like to acknowledge the work of Toronto Rape Crisis Centre/Multicultural Women Against Rape for their efforts with sign-making and Ontario Coalition Against Poverty, which supplied the vast majority of the marshals.

A special thanks also to all the artists, who donated so generously of their time, and helped to breathe life into our struggle against electroshock. –Bonnie Burstow


Antipsychiatry chant in Ireland

Some new words from shock survivor-activist Mary Maddock with MindFreedom Ireland – Don

Stop forced shock, stop forced drugs,
Give us choice back,
If you would.

No more control, no more control,
Freedom from control,
Will let our spirits roll.

Love and support,


New Zealand shock survivor David O’Neill – article

Thanks to advocate Anna de Jonge for sending this – Don

Psychiatry: A fraudulent and dangerous practice.
Tuesday, May 08, 2007
Shock therapy ‘barbaric’ – New Zealand

By KAMALA HAYMAN – The Press | Wednesday, 9 May 2007
A Christchurch man says “barbaric” electric shock therapy failed to lift his depression but robbed him of treasured memories.

David O’Neill’s health deteriorated in 2004 after a motorcycle accident damaged his liver, bladder and thyroid and sliced his spleen in two.

He had repeated admissions to hospital for complications of his injuries and a series of unsuccessful investigations to find the cause of his chronic abdominal pain.

The frequent hospital stays and constant pain took its toll on his mental health.

“I ended up suicidal,” said O’Neill.

He was admitted to Hillmorton Hospital in 2005 for depression. On his second stay, a doctor recommended a 12-session course of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT), which O’Neill consented to.

“I cannot even remember being admitted to the hospital, never mind giving consent for the ECT,” he said.

The treatment failed to lift his depression and it destroyed his memory. He has no recollection of his wedding day, the birth of his three children or even his childhood.

O’Neill, now 49, said that before his accident he had cared for his wife ? paralysed in a 1985 car accident ? and raised their three children.

“Now I can’t do anything. I feel as if I’m above myself all the time. I don’t feel pain; I’m emotion-free,” he said.

ECT was “barbaric” and should be banned, he said.

His family is dismayed it was not consulted and says O’Neill was not well enough to give properly informed consent.

Daughter Julieanne O’Neill said her father no longer felt any love for his family, including his two-year-old grandson.

“My dad has no feelings for him, no feelings for his family. He doesn’t feel anything for himself. He is living in an empty shell,” she said. “It has taken every single bit of my dad that was ever there away from him.”

She said some doctors appeared to see ECT as “the quickest and easiest” solution. “But it’s not them that has to go home and have this zombie person to cope with.”

Mary O’Neill said the shock treatment had stolen the husband she had known.

Psychiatric Consumers Trust advocate Liz Henderson said ECT could lift depression and transform the lives of patients. “There is a place for it.”
But it had clearly failed O’Neill.

“It has compounded what was already a difficult situation,” Henderson said.

Henderson was concerned that consent was gained without his family’s involvement. “He wasn’t well enough to make that decision.”

Vince Barry, general manager of Canterbury District Health Board mental health services, would not discuss individual patients.

However, he said it was the responsibility of clinicians to determine whether a patient was able to understand the pros and cons of ECT. “It would be unusual for someone to be given ECT without a discussion between the clinical team and close family members,” he said.

The Health and Disability Commissioner has decided against a formal investigation of O’Neill’s case and referred him to an advocate.

The Accident Compensation Corporation has refused his treatment injury claim, ruling that the ECT did not cause a physical injury.

ECT statistics (July 2004-June 2005):

307 patients given ECT (79 in Canterbury).

22 per cent did not give consent.

0.4% of mental health patients given ECT nationally.

1.1% of Canterbury mental health patients given ECT.

Fw by Anna de Jonge
Hamilton New Zealand

Colette’s testimony

    The following statement is from Colette, another courageous shock survivor who  gave personal testimony for the first time at the anti-shock demo in Cork Ireland on May 13/07 –  way to go, Colette!- Don

I was first given shock treatment (E.C.T.) at 19 when I was committed to Lindville, a private mental hospital, in Cork city.  They blasted me with it twice a week or so during the six months that I spent there. I managed to escape from there then.

Off and on, during subsequent committals to Sarsfieldscourt public mental hospital, I was given E.C.T.  I can only recall once being given a consent form for E.C.T.   In ,79, talking with other patients I gave my view that their (hospitals’) was not helping us.  We decided to confront the staff thinking meaningful dialogue was possible.  It was not.  We were transferred by ambulance to Our Lady’s .A huge gothic, much feared mental hospital.  I was blasted with E.C.T. and put into a locked ward Ita’s 2.  I was put on extremely strong drugs so I never could recall what actually took place when we spoke to staff in Sarsfieldscourt .  When I resisted taking heavy drugs they pinned me down and injected me . They poured largactil down my throat on other occasions.

At this time my poor mother suffered a mental breakdown, presumably due to worry over me.

Subsequently, I suffered very much from memory loss.  When I worked in a jeweller’s.  I was put in charge of repairs.  One day 2 ladies called in for jewellery left for repair.  We could not find it.  I had no memory of what I had done with it.  They were leaving on the liner from Cobh in a couple of hours.  Needless to say, I was fired.

Later I got a good job with the local newspaper, ’The Examiner’.  From the start, I had little or no recall of adverts I had taken. I seemed careless, not to be trusted with responsibility or promotion.  I thought it was due to medication, but when I came off medication in ’94, my memory was as bad as ever.

Colette, a member of MindFreedom Ireland.

Alternative Approaches

In many cases, psychiatry attempts to find a cure to whatever is being manifest by a person – usually behaviourally – who is in some emotional or psychological distress. Often the so-called cure involves numbing the pain to the point of inducing docility. Here are some thoughts from Dr. Paul Epstein, a naturopathic physician on the subject:

“In curing, we are trying to get somewhere, we are looking for answers. In curing, our efforts are specifically designed to make something happen. In healing, we live questions instead of answers. We hang out in the unknown. … The challenge in medicine is not the choice between one and the other. We need both. The lesson I learned is never to be afraid to take people into the heart of their pain, because at the heart of their pain is the healing, and at the heart of the healing is the pain and the joy.”

Anti-shock Statements in my Advocacy Award Acceptance Speech

These excerpts are from my acceptance speech after the Mental Health Legal Committee presented shock survivor Carla McKague, psychiatric survivor-advocate Randy Pritchard, mental health lawyer Anita Szigeti and me with its first advocacy awards on April 27, 2007 in Toronto. I felt very honoured. – Don

Many people including health professionals seem shocked when I tell them electroshock (“ECT”) was never banned but has actually increased during the last 10 years. Electroshock today is more dangerous and brain-damaging than it was 10-20 years ago – more electrical energy (150-300 volts) is required to override the higher seizure thresholds resulting from the drugs. Despite what the Canadian Psychiatric Association claims in its “ECT” position papers, virtually very shock treatment causes small hemorrhages and rapid and sudden rises in blood pressure in the brain and heart, and a host of many other effects including physical weakness, migraine-type headache, difficulty concentrating and learning new material, especially permanent memory loss and brain damage. The shock doctors call the grand mal, epileptic-like seizure caused by electroshock “therapeutic”. Nonsense, ridiculous! The “ECT” statistics I’ve collected for over 25 years from the Ontario government’s Ministry of Health clearly show that “ECT” has in fact increased over the last 10 years. In year 2003-2004, over 14,000 electroshocks were administered in Ontario, about 70% of the shocked patients were women, roughly half were 60 years and older, many were 80-90 years old, two to three times more women than men have been shocked. Electroshock is another form of violence against women and elder abuse–more evidence of how psychiatry preys on the more vulnerable among us.

Because the Ontario government has refused to call public hearings into electroshock, the Ontario Coalition to Stop Electroshock held 3 days of public hearings on electroshock in October 1984; in April 2005 the Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA) also held two days of public hearings, and on May13, Mother’s Day, it held a very a successful demonstration demanding, “Stop Shocking Our Mothers and Grandmothers”. This so-called “safe, effective and lifesaving” treatment for depression and other types of so-called “mental illness” has already caused a virtual pandemic of brain damage and permanent memory loss. The vast majority of shock survivors and relatives, health professionals, and human rights activists who have publicly and courageously testified against electroshock in Toronto and other major cities in Canada, the United States, the UK, Ireland, and New Zealand have condemned electroshock and want it banned. I agree absolutely.

Psychiatric survivors and social justice and human rights activists must continue protesting against electroshock, forced drugging and other health-threatening psychiatric abuses masquerading as “safe and effective treatment” because they seriously threaten people’s health and lives, because they violate our human rights. With advocates like you, we will overcome.

Irish shock survivors speak out at Cork demo

This post is a speech by Mel during the anti-shock demo in Cork, Ireland on May 13, 2007 organized by MindFreedom Ireland. Many thanks to shock survivor-activist Mel and survivor-organizer Mary Maddock for sending me this powerul statement – Don Weitz

You asked me to write a synopsis of my ECT DEMO speech

I would be delighted to do that, but would probably need what i read out. My own piece after i had read out the testimony was roughly as follows:

When we think of giving people electric shocks, we think of things like Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo Bay, and associate it with the practice of torture and gross abuse of human rights. And yet the practice of ECT, electric shock to the brain, is widely used in psychiatric hospitals throughout the world, without any scientific basis whatsoever, and often with seriously deleterious effect.

Thus, if one cares about a world without torture, we must stand by all of those who have been tortured, unnecessarily and in the name of medical treatment, the benefits of which are at best unproven.

Amnesty international is currently running a “Stop Violence Against Women” Campaign. Two-thirds of ECT victims are women.

Join us in a call for human rights and oppose the practice of ECT.

Letter from Sue Clark

Shock survivor-activist Sue Clark asked me to submit her letter (May 9/07) below as a blog entry. The Toronto Star rejected it. Thanks for sending it to us, Sue. Don Weitz

Dear Editor:

Electroshock I feel is an atrocity. The profession of psychiatry continues to give electroshock to patients. I had electroshock in 1973 against my will. I suffered permanent memory loss.

When will the medical profession wake up and realize that there are healthier alternatives to electroshock. Dr. Peter R. Breggin, a psychiatrist from the USA [who formerly used electroconvulsive therapy] wrote a book called Electroshock and Its Brain Disabling Effects. Dr. John Friedberg, a neurologist from the USA has stated that electroshock causes brain damage. There have been deaths associated with electroshock. I came close to death when on my 5th electroshock my heart stopped and I had to be revived.

There is a huge worldwide movement to help ban electroshock universally consisting of electroshock survivors, their friends and families, psychiatrists, psychologists, doctors, nurses, lawyers, advocates, health professionals, etc. is a psychiatric survivor driven organization helping to end psychiatric abuses all over the world including electroshock.

The time has come to end this human right violation for once and all. No one else should have to suffer like I did.

Sue Clark-Wittenberg

CAPA Website Updated: Check out anti-shock demo photos, audio and film clips

The CAPA website has been updated. Now, you can find audio clips, video clips and photos of the mother’s day anti-shock demo at

Many thanks to John Bonnar and Graeme Bacque for their great work documenting this kick-ass demo!

STOP SHOCKING OUR MOTHERS AND GRANDMOTHERS-a brief report on the Toronto march-and-demo

This was a Mother’s Day like no other. If you didn’t participate in the arts-based, feminist-driven anti-electroshock march and demo on Mother’s Day, May13, in Toronto, you missed an empowering and historic event. Its theme and demand was STOP SHOCKING OUR MOTHERS AND GRANDMOTHERS. On a bright, sunny and clear Sunday afternoon, 140 people – young mothers, women survivors of sexual and physical violence, shock survivors, antipoverty/social justice activists, antipsychiatry activists, and advocates – came together to rally and protest against electroshock (electroconvulsive therapy or “ECT”)–particularly its increasing use on young women who’ve just given birth and elderly women over 60. Another blatant example of psychiatry’s traditional targeting and preying on some of the most vulnerable among us. So-called average citizens and highly educated health professionals believe that “ECT” was banned or outlawed years ago – unfortunately they’re wrong. In fact, electroshock was never banned and is being increasingly prescribed and administered to many thousands of women and elderly people, and fraudulently promoted as a ”safe, effective and lifesaving treatment” for “bipolar affective disorder”, postpartum depression, and other types of ”mental illness.”

Organized by the 4 year-old Toronto-based Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault (CAPA), about 100 of us first assembled around 1:15pm in front of the Clarke Institute of Psychiatry – a notorious shock mill located at the northeast corner of College & Spadina. At 1:30, we started marching peacefully and loudly shouting anti-shock chants along College Street en route to Queen’s Park, the site of the rally & demo. For a change, the Toronto police, who had signed a copy of our march permit, didn’t once harass us but rode near us on their bikes. A lot of credit for keeping things cool must go to our volunteer marshals, coordinated by shock survivor-activist Mel Starkman; they wore bright-yellow armbands and acted as our friendly escorts.

On the march from the Clarke to Queen’s Park we chanted and shouted slogans like





HEY-HEY, CPA (Canadian Psychiatric Assn),

Mot of us proudly carried an anti-shock sign; all the signs were made a couple days before by hardworking and creative members and OISE students as members of CAPA’s Arts and Media Committees. Our messages were crystal-clear, feminist, powerful, empowering, demanding, and consciousness-raising:





Roughly 20 minutes later, we marched into Queen’s Park greeted by other women and men and kids and keynote speaker/CAPA chair Dr. Bonnie Burstow
Bonnie first read out the names of 27 or more organizations endorsing our demo– a powerful mixture of women’s advocacy, survivor support, and social justice groups and coalitions. She pointed out why this demo focuses on women– they’re the main targets of shock; 2-3 times more women than men are electroshocked in Canada, the United Sates and other countries; women suffer more trauma and damage, the latter fact conclusively substantiated by the recently published ‘Sackeim study’. As Bonnie also asserted, this demo marks the start of an international campaign and movement to universally ban electroshock – for the first time, similar anti-shock demos were held simultaneously in two other major cities: in Montreal by Action Autonomie and MindFreedom Ireland in Cork, Ireland. This historic fact was loudly applauded. As Bonnie also stated, electroshock always causes brain damage including permanent memory loss; it seriously violates people’s human rights including the right to health and life. Electroshock is not a medical treatment – it’s an assault on the body-mind-spirit, “menticide”.

Several women shock survivors also spoke out; others sent CAPA personal and powerful statements, which we were honoured to read aloud. Paivi Laine, who also spoke out at the CAPA press conference on May 10 and two years earlier during CAPA-sponsored public hearings in Toronto City Hall, was very impressive as she courageously voiced some of her personal pain and determination to help abolish shock. Bonnie, Shaindl Diamond, and I read out personal and powerful statements of support from a few other shock survivors: Sue Clark in Ottawa, Wendy Funk in Whitehorse, Yukon, and Leonard Roy Frank in San Francisco, California. Support statements and greetings from sister organizations Action Autonomie in Quebec and Mindfreedom Ireland were also noted and deeply appreciated.

A few moments of powerful drama unfolded as we witnessed several women sitting on chairs as if waiting to be shocked, then suddenly falling to the ground one-by-one holding 10-foot-high women puppets. Another featured attraction was listening to the talented folksinger/artist Roger Ellis and violinist Shelley Coopersmith; they made us feel more relaxed and empowered as they and the rest of us sang Roger’s new song STOP SHOCK TREATMENT. The nutritious free food and happy voices of children and hugs from sisters and brothers, friends and relatives including the presence of my daughter Lisa made this Toronto demo very special and supportive.

I will remember and be inspired by this demo for many years to come, and hope many other women’s organizations, psychiatric survivor groups, social justice and human rights coalitions in many other cities in Canada and other countries will soon join our struggle to abolish electroshock. As Bonnie asserted in her Anti-Electroshock Proclamation, “We vow to return, return, and return again until this abomination is no more.”
– Don Weitz