Archive for the ‘Advocacy’ Category

Bombarded by Drugs Video Now Posted

“You’ll have to excuse any lapses in memory I might experience, since I was only a child of six or seven when my experiences with psychiatric drugs began.”

The second video from the April 2005 hearings, Inquiry into Psychiatry, is now posted. Like the ECT Report video, this video also portrays moving and disturbing testimony from survivors of psychiatric medications. This is a difficult video to watch because the brave individuals who came forward to testify (and agreed to have their testimony recorded on video) lay bare very personal details of their lives that led to them being “bombarded by drugs,” rather than receiving other forms of support and therapy that would have been more appropriate. Particularly egregious examples are the multiple reports of people who were severely medicated as children or teenagers, rather than being rescued from severe physical, emotional, and sexual abuse at home and in school.

If anything, these heart-rending stories remind us of the danger of solutions looking for problems. With today’s growing arsenal of psychotropic medications, marketed heavily by the pharmaceutical industry, it is all too easy and tempting for physicians to turn to masking symptoms or controlling behaviours through chemical interventions, rather than helping an individual with underlying causes of personal turmoil.

Watch the video, and think carefully about the effects of being Bombarded by Drugs.


Videos from the Mother’s Day Demonstration

As we’ve been uploading videos from the Inquiry into Psychiatry hearings, I came across two videos from the Stop Shocking Our Mothers and Grandmothers Demonstration that was held in Toronto on Mother’s Day, 2007.

ECT Report Video – Now Online

“I don’t know why one man has to die thirty-six times just to prove the psychiatric field right or wrong.” – ECT Survivor testimony.

Video testimony from the Public Hearings on Electroshock, taken during the two-day Inquiry into Psychiatry held April 9-10, 2005 in Toronto, is now online. This video portrays powerful and moving testimony from electroshock survivors, telling the harrowing stories of their ordeals in their own words. For anyone who is being asked to consider electroconvulsive therapy – ECT or electroshock – as a treatment alternative for themselves or a loved one, this video is mandatory viewing. Consider it part of the “informed” portion of “informed consent.”

If you are a practitioner, a health care professional, or even a physician who uses ECT as therapy, watch and listen to the words of people who could very well have been your patients to learn about what they actually experience, and the aftermath, about which you might never hear.

If you are a politician or policy-maker involved in health care in almost every jurisdiction around the world, listen to the first-hand accounts of people who might otherwise be your constituents, and reconsider your government’s position on authorizing ECT as an acceptable treatment.

Watch the video, and think.

Leonard Frank’s letter re electroshock to ABC reporter

From: Leonard Roy Frank

To: Sibile Morency @

Sent: Tuesday, July 10, 2007 4:30 PM

Subject: Re: ECT data

Dear Ms. Morency,

David Oaks alerted me (and others on the Zapback listserv) to your interest in finding out the number of people being electroshocked currently.

As you undoubtedly know by now, accurate and verifiable figures on this subject are difficult if not impossible to find. California’s Dept. of Mental Hygiene publishes ECT figures annually; at least it’s supposed to. In recent years 2,500-2,700 people were being electroshocked in the state annually. These figures probably understate the extent of ECT being used because of the lax enforcement of California’s law (1977) requiring quarterly reports from ECT users (both in hospitals and in the offices of psychiatrists).

Your best bet may be to rely on estimates and in that connection I can supply you with some educated guesses, all of which are excerpts from my online book The Electroshock Quotationary, which was published in 2005 and is downloadable free of charge.

Since 1938, when Ugo Cerletti and Lucio Bini introduced the procedure at the University of Rome, more than six million Americans and millions of others throughout the world have undergone electroshock treatment. At its peak in the 1950s and 1960s, electroshock was administered to as many as 300,000 Americans a year. Today that figure is more than 100,000.

From the Introduction:

There is no official count, but in 1996 the estimate was that 100,000 patients per year were being treated with ECT in the United States…. If you take the 100,000 estimate per year and each patient gets an average of 10 treatments, that’s about 1 million treatments in 1996.

MAX FINK (Austrian-born U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), quoted in Arline Kaplan, “Through the Times with Max Fink, M.D.,” Psychiatric Times, September 2005. According to Kaplan, “Fink believes that now the numbers being treated in the United States are beyond 100,000 patients per year, and he sees a revival of ECT in Europe as well.

Because ECT is given in virtually every country… of the world – and not infrequently at much higher rates of usage than in the United States, it is likely that between 1 and 2 million patients per year receive ECT worldwide.
RICHARD ABRAMS (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), Electroshock Therapy, 3rd ed., ch. 1, 1997.

For more information on ECT use and on the subject of ECT generally, you may want to contact Linda Andre, an electroshock survivor like myself, who is now writing a book on ECT for Rutgers University Press. She lives in Rockaway Beach, NY.

I hope this is helpful.
Sincerely yours,

Leonard Roy Frank
San Francisco, CA

Letter to NY Governor Spitzer – Stop Shocking “SimoneD”

July 10, 2007
Eliot Spitzer
Governor of New York
Ph: 518-474-8390, Fax: 518-474-1513

Dear Governor Spitzer,
I am writing re the extremely serious situation of “Simone D” whom I understand is currently incarcerated in Creedmoor Psychiatric Hospital in New York State where she has been subjected to electroshock (“ECT”) and currently threatened with thirty (30) more electroshocks. This woman is not only being shocked but shocked repeatedly–over 200 times so far! —and against her will, without informed consent. She has tried to refuse electroshock and has clearly and firmly asserted, “Electroshock causes more pain! I suffer more from shock treatment!” In other words, this woman is asserting she is being tortured by this so-called safe and effective treatment.

I wish to emphasize the fact that electroshock, particularly forced electroshock, constitutes state-sanctioned violence and assault, particularly against women. Two to three times more women than men, including elderly women, are currently subjected to electroshock– “ECT” is clearly sexist and ageist. It has permanently traumatized and disabled many thousands of young and older women and thousands of other psychiatric survivors, and caused or contributed to the death of several hundred others.

Electroshock is a psychiatric procedure that always causes harm – specifically brain damage including permanent memory loss. These disastrous and permanent effects have been documented in the medical-psychiatric literature (see Sackeim et al, 2007). Further, electroshock has been publicly and repeatedly denounced by shock survivors, activists and other critics as trauma and torture–an extremely serious violation of human rights. Since a New York Court of Appeals has upheld a lower court’s decision to shock “Simone D” against her will and since the New York Office of Mental Health (OMH) has officially approved forced electroshock against “Simone D”, New York State is seriously violating medical ethics and international law including the United Nations’ Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Convention Against Torture—both human rights documents specifically and clearly prohibit any cruel, inhuman, degrading treatment or punishment and torture. In the court of public opinion, New York State stands accused of condoning and promoting electroshock as “state-sanctioned violence against women”.

I urge you to do whatever is necessary to prevent Simone D. from being electroshocked again. One shock is one too many! Please reply to my letter.

Don Weitz, co-founder, Coalition Against Psychiatric Assault and insulin shock survivor
Copies to: David Peterson, Lieutenant Governor of New York
Michael Hogan, Commissioner, New York Office of Mental Health
Peter M. Rivera, Chair, New York State Assembly Standing Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation and Developmental Disabilities

Simone D – forced shock case in NY

Some of you may have read about the battle of Simone D. to refuse forced electroshock in New York State in this MindFreedom distributed press release from 31 May 2007. Unfortunately, Simone has lost. Below is the e-mail from her attorney, Dennis B. Feld, about this:

The New York Court of Appeals turned back the challenge brought by Mental Hygiene Legal Service to the order authorizing 30 shocks over Simone D.’s objection, which order was issued in late November, 2005 and had been stayed by the appellate process. This result will likely, and shortly, have Simone D. strapped to a Gurney and wheeled into Creedmoor’s ECT suite for “maintenance” shock treatments in additional to the at least 148 shocks she has received since 1999 (and over 200 during her lifetime). Although the Appellant’s Brief and the Amici Brief made these numbers clear to the Court as well as the very questionable efficacy of maintenance shock at that extraordinary high end, the Court’s ruling never made such a recitation in ultimately affirming the authorized regimen. Also lost on the Court, at least in our feeling that the Court’s very technical decision was in part driven by an unwillingness to be critical of the effort taken by psychiatrists to care for an involuntary confined and “problematic” population, was the fact that remission of Simone’s condition had never been achieved by ECT nor did ECT offer any hope that Simone D. would get to the point of being found capable of making her own treatment decisions or ever being released from the hospital.

So, there is nothing we can affirmatively take from our over 1 and 1/2 year battle in this matter and utilize in confronting New York State’s continuing turn to involuntary maintenance shock to control the behavior of individuals of whom the new (as well as the old) psychotropic drugs fail to render compliant and manageable to the State’s satisfaction. And, unfortunately we are left with intermediate appellate precedent that finds a patient’s greater interaction with her peers and diminished skirmishes with staff to be benefits which are “crystal clear” and evidence that ECT has improved the quality of her life.

This case also underscores the Office of Mental Hygiene’ s failure to explore non-medical alternatives such as transferring Simone D. to a unit/facility that has Spanish speaking clinicians who can approach and try to treat her in her primary language and also provide her cultural accommodations. Instead, the only alternative to shock the State will readily offer is a panoply of medications that even its experts acknowledge do not work. Out of this continuing blunder, Kim penned two lines in the Appellant’s Brief submitted to New York’s High Court that should earn a place in Leonard’s Quotationary: ” After appellant had been subjected to more than a decade of linguistic isolation at Creedmoor, the hospital gave up on transferring her to a ward with a Spanish speaking psychiatrist after less than six weeks. Yet Creedmoor had not abandoned more intrusive treatment with multiple drugs, even after several years of admitted failure.”

Maybe that’s the irony that convinces us that we need to continue to fight these battles if only to attempt to instill some sense into institutional psychiatry and continue to see if we can get the courts to understand that sometimes setting limits on what clinicians do in the name of treatment is indeed the best jurisprudence.

ECT Testimony Videos on YouTube

Anti-electroshock activist Sue Clark-Wittenberg, together with her husband, Steven Wittenberg, have posted a number of videos describing their, and others’, experiences with electroshock (a.k.a. electroconvulsive therapy) on YouTube. A list of the links are found on the Wittenberg’s site.

Mary Maddock’s Petition Against Forced Drugging

The Illegality of Ireland’s Mental Health Act of 2001 as it Concerns the Forced Use of Mind Altering Drugs on Unwilling Patients

Petition by: Mary Maddock
Petition Host: Kathy Sinnott, MEP from Ireland South

My ‘treatment’ began in 1976 after the birth of my first child. With little or no discussion it was decided I needed medical treatment, i.e. drugs, mainly a nueroleptic called largactil, and a little later ECT as I had a chemical imbalance in my brain, without having any medical tests to make this diagnoses. I believe this to be the same as forced treatment, and I was forcefully treated with so many injections that to this day I remember the pain and soreness from the many shots.

I got no information about the treatment I received and was not capable of evaluating it myself as it is proven now that nueroleptic drugs cause a chemical lobotomy. I know this to be true from personal experience as simple tasks were a nightmare to perform and I was out of touch with my emotions.

I managed to survive this first onslaught for 7 yrs, but in 1982 I was a victim of psychiatry again and soon I was diagnosed as a manic depressive and was chemically lobotomised once again, this time by three different substances: largactil, surmontil and lithium. I remained on a combination of drugs for almost 20 yrs: on lithium and largactil for most of the time and on all three drugs for over 10 yrs.

I am now completely free from drugs for over 7 yrs and at almost 60 years old am leading a healthy and free life in body, mind, and spirit.

With the adoption of the Mental Health Act of 2001 (MHA), Ireland’s doctors now have the ability to legally force an unwilling patient to continue to take medication for real or perceived mental illness. The applicable text of sec. 60 reads:

60- Where medicine has been administered to a patient for the purposes of ameliorating his or her mental disorder for a continuous period of 3 months, the administration of that medicine shall not be continued unless either:
(a) the patient gives his or her consent in writing to the continued administration of that medicine, or
(b) where the patient is unable or unwilling to give such consent:
(i) the continued administration of that medicine is approved by the consultant psychiatrist responsible for the care and treatment of the patient, and
(ii) the continued administration of that medicine is authorised (in a form specified by the Commission) by another consultant psychiatrist following referral of the matter to him or her by the first-mentioned psychiatrist

The ramifications of this section of the MHA are startling, as what happened to myself can now be forced upon unwilling Irish citizens if two doctors believe it to be in the best interest of the patient, even without any objective standards of testing.

My friend and colleague John McCarthy was a delegate to the UN in regards to the recent convention on the rights of the disabled. The treaty, as originally worded in art. 17, left open a number of loopholes which would have allowed States Parties the ability to force involuntary treatment on a patient. His lobbying helped rewrite art. 12 so that it now reads that “every person with disabilities has a right to respect for his or her physical and mental integrity on an equal basis with others.” Furthermore, art. 14 states that the disabled shall enjoy the same rights to liberty and security of their persons as the non-disabled, and that the existence of a disability does not “justify a depravation of liberty.” As of 30 March, 2007, both Ireland and the EU are signatories to the convention, and it is therefore binding law on both bodies.

Even before this, the Council of Europe created Europe’s most important human rights document, the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (1950), which offers protection inter alia of privacy (Article 8); against inhuman and degrading treatment (Article 3); against arbitrary deprivation of liberty (Article 5); and against discrimination in conjunction with other substantive rights (Article 14). I recognize that the EU does not have the authority to enforce these articles, but this document set the precedent for the above UN convention, and is binding on Ireland and every other nation that is current member state of the EU.

I strongly believe that the above portion of the MHA are in clear violation of international law, and respectfully ask that the EU, via the petitions committee, recommend that the involuntary forced use of mind altering medications in Ireland be stopped immediately.

Drugged Children – An expedient answer to a government’s problem

Saturday’s Globe and Mail has a shocking article about how the provincial government sanctions the over-medication of children who are wards of the Crown.

Psychotropic drugs are being prescribed to nearly half the Crown wards in a sample of Ontario children’s aid societies, kindling fears that the agencies are overusing medication with the province’s most vulnerable children.

“These children have lots of issues and the quickest and easiest way to deal with it is to put them on medication, but it doesn’t really deal with the issues,” said child psychiatrist Dick Meen, clinical director of Kinark Child and Family Services, the largest children’s mental health agency in Ontario.

Children who are removed from parental care under court order typically have to deal with a wide range of psycho-social issues that all too often manifest as behavioural problems. Rather than giving them the support they need to deal with the trauma of removal – let alone the traumas that spurred the removal order in the first place, assuming it was truly justified – government-sanctioned workers turn to controlling medications instead. The article goes on:

 “There are lots of other kids like that,” said Dr. McKay, one of the experts on the government panel. “If you look at the group homes, it’s close to 100 per cent of the kids who are on not just one drug, but on drug cocktails with multiple diagnoses.

“There are too many kids being diagnosed with…a whole range of disorders that are way out of proportion to the normal population. …It’s just not reasonable to think the children in care would have such over-representation in these rather obscure disorders.”

The report from a government investigation into the case obtained by The Globe uncovered group home staff untrained in the use and side effects of the psychotropic drugs they were doling out; no requests from the psychiatrist to monitor the boy for problems, and little evidence of efforts to treat the boy’s apparent mental-health issues other than with heavy-duty pharmaceuticals.

There needs to be a complete moratorium on prescribing such medications for children, together with calling a public inquiry into the over-medication of children in care, the over-medication of children because of teacher/school pressure, and the problematic of completely inadequate oversight of Children’s Aid Societies and their workers throughout this province. For once, won’t someone in power truly think of the children who have none.

Sue Clark wrote a poem about ECT


by Sue Clark-Wittenberg, 2007

The day I got my first ECT
I recall the room was white
the nurses wore white
the doctor wore white
and I was white as a sheet with fright

I lay on my back on the bed
with wires put on both sides of my head
a rubber band put on my forehead
and a rubber mallet stuck in between my teeth

I was scared to death, terrified
I wanted to jump up and run
but I could not
I saw the ECT machine
right to my left
and knew that horrible machine
was going to be turned on
any minute
and it would hurt my brain
and it did

I woke up after the ECT
dizzy, confused and did
not know who I was
where I was

I was put in a wheelchair
I missed my breakfast
and had to wait for lunch

a peer on my ward
told me many years later
that when the staff grabbed me
to take me to the ECT room
I screamed, kicked and bit the
staff and hollered
“Somebody, anybody, please
help me”
But nobody did

ECT hurt my brain
No one told me the
truth about what ECT
would do to me
because nobody cared

So that is why I want ECT the atrocity that it is
to be banned, to end,
to stop now
so no one else has to
go through the torture
like I did which is called ECT