..............To all members, friends and supporters of MindFreedom Ireland, we are have our Christmas party next Tuesday night December 15th from 7.P.M. at the quaker meeting house opposite Capwell Road bus station.Please bring some refreshments and a small present for mutual sharing.Happy Christmas!The Costa group.

Shock tactics: ECT is still being used, at times without the consent of the patient

Some 400 psychiatric patients received 2,700 electric shock treatments in 2008, according to the Mental Health Commission. At least 43 were involuntarily detained and received about 300 doses without giving consent. Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) involves attaching electrodes to the scalp that send a current through the brain and result in a seizure that most psychiatrists consider beneficial. Most of last year’s ECT patients suffered depressive disorders, schizophrenia or mania and had not responded to medication. Guidelines state ECT should only be used when alternative therapies have been considered or failed. It should only be administered with the patient’s consent, or if that’s not possible, with the approval of two consultant psychiatrists.

Negative currents: Critics claim it is an abuse of human rights

Mental health campaigners have criticised ECT as a human rights abuse, claiming it can cause permanent memory loss and arguing that benefits are short lived. Mary Maddock, of human rights campaign group MindFreedom Ireland, underwent 16 sessions of ECT after she was diagnosed with postnatal depression. She suffered permanent memory loss and described it as “a barbaric assault on the individual”.

John McCarthy, left, the founder of Mad Pride Ireland, a lobby group for mental health, said that while some patients benefit from ECT, many don’t. McCarthy has lobbied for six years to ban involuntary use. He said imposing ECT is a breach of fundamental human rights “in any rational person’s mind”.

Positive connectivity: Psychiatrists believe that it can save the lives of depressives

Many consultant psychiatrists and professional bodies believe that ECT is an effective and important treatment. Justin Brophy, president of the Irish College of Psychiatry, said the dangers are often misrepresented. He said research indicates that memory loss is usually short term and can be resolved. The Scottish ECT Accreditation Network found that 74% of patients who consented, and 86% of patients who did not, showed a definite improvement following ECT last year. John Moloney, left, the minister of state for mental health, recently referred to a 2003 review in The Lancet which found that ECT was probably more effective than drug therapy. However, the recorded number of patients receiving electric shock therapy has fallen over recent years.

Pulling the plug: ECT could soon be banned

The Mental Health Commission’s figures did not include patients referred to other hospitals. Its study also found a disparity in ECT administration, with St Patrick’s University Hospital in Dublin, left, and St Brigid’s in Ballinasloe, Co Galway, performing the most procedures. Involuntary ECT is allowed under Article 59b of the Mental Health Act 2001. Campaigners are calling on the government to amend this. Green Party senators this month introduced a Private Members’ Bill to abolish the forced administration of ECT. Moloney says he has received many submissions, and while there is more work to be done, he is prepared to accept such amendments. A mental health review will begin in March.

Madam, -

Carl O'Brien quotes Dr Justin Brophy, President of the College of Psychiatry as saying that  "new research indicated that memory loss [from electroshock treatment] among patients was often short-term and could be fully resolved."

Is this the same same Dr Brophy who has made the claim that there was not evidence that SSRI caused suicides and homicides, although there are three review studies showing the opposite? Is this the same Dr Brophy who is the Director of the Irish Association of Suicidology?


Dorothee Krien

3 Beamont Place


Co. Cork

The daily newspaper for Eugene, Oregon, USA -- The Register-Guard -- ran an "op ed" guest column by David W. Oaks, Director of MindFreedom International, about a recent City of Eugene City Council resolution that was recently adopted. Resolution 4989 promotes more choice in mental health -- including more non-drug choices for full recovery -- as a human right. Today is also the 61st Human Rights Day, marking the signing of the United Nations Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

GUEST VIEWPOINT: Eugene recognizes mental health patients have rights, too

Date Published: 2009-12-10 06:00

Author: David W. Oaks

Source: The Register-Guard, Eugene, Oregon, USA


page A11

To read a copy of the City of Eugene Resolution 4989 referred to in the below essay, click here.

Two famous authors from Lane County — Opal Whiteley and Ken Kesey — had significant interactions with the mental health system. Whiteley, who portrayed the woods around where she grew up near Cottage Grove as a fairyland, ended up in a psychiatric institution in England for more than 40 years. Kesey, whose novels are interwoven with what amount to love poems to rural Lane County, used the authoritarianism he witnessed while working inside a psychiatric institution as a metaphor for conventional society in his bestseller, “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest.”

I like to think this coincidence has something to do with our closeness to what’s left of America’s wilderness. When I swim in an Oregon mountain lake surrounded by ancient trees, I feel alive in mysterious ways that do seem “northwest of normal,” as our popular local slogan puts it. Our civic “mad pride” contributed to the recent passage by the city of Eugene of the first and only municipal resolution I know of that affirms support for human rights in mental health.

Today, the 61st anniversary of the adoption by the United Nations of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, is a good day to celebrate that resolution’s approval.

When the media cover those of us with psychiatric labels, it’s often about the small fraction who are violent; but there are many Lane County citizens with mental health histories who are contributing positively every day, such as psychiatric survivor Hugh Massengill. The resolution emerged from a process that began in 2004 when the Eugene Human Rights Commission adopted the issue as a priority because of encouragement from Massengill, who was then a commissioner.

Guided by advocate Carmen Urbina, the city sponsored a series of public forums where citizens diagnosed with psychiatric disabilities dialogued with mental health professionals, judges, family members and the public, culminating in a large conference at the University of Oregon in 2006.

This momentum launched the “Opal Network” in May 2007. Named after the author, these quarterly meetings bring together all who seek to amplify the often-ignored voice of mental health consumers and psychiatric survivors.

The local cross-disability organization, Lane Independent Living Alliance, especially LILA counselor Bjo Ashwill, spearheaded this innovative coalition, which is gaining national attention.

Holly LeMasurier, a human rights analyst for the city of Eugene’s Equity and Human Rights Center, helped distill the conclusions of these past five years of grass-roots community organizing into Resolution 4989, which the City Council unanimously passed on Oct. 26. The resolution affirms the human right of citizens to have more empowering choices in the mental health system, including more nondrug alternatives, for complete recovery.

Psychiatric survivor advocate Tracey “TC” Dumas spoke in front of the Eugene City Council to thank its members.

Dumas, who survived forced electroshock as a teenager and went on to earn her Ph.D. at the University of Oregon, said, “I’ve been in the mental health system for 35 years. Many people are not offered choices. I just want to say ‘thank you,’ especially to you Mayor Kitty Piercy, who wanted to see this resolution happen.”

Ron Unger, coordinator of MindFreedom Lane County, did a lot of the background work for the resolution.

He told the City Council, “I am a mental health counselor. One size does not fit all. Especially to reach young people, the mental health system needs to be much more positive and helpful. Thank you for passing this resolution.”

The resolution does not shy away from one of the most controversial topics in mental health, the over-prescription of psychiatric drugs.

One paragraph in the resolution states, “Many people determine that psychiatric medications are quite helpful for their mental and emotional conditions, and are grateful to have the opportunity to take them. Others find medications to be harmful to their health, unhelpful and/or excessively intrusive and problematic. When people seek treatment and are offered medication as the only treatment option, they may feel coerced into choosing that option. Many of the medications currently provided are typically associated with significant medical risk, are often experienced as subjectively harmful, and their long-term effectiveness remains controversial. Furthermore, there are widely researched psychosocial alternative treatments likely to be at least as effective for many, with fewer harmful effects.”

The resolution concludes by calling for two goals:

First, “All mental health service providers within the city of Eugene are encouraged to incorporate self determination and consumer choice as much as possible, with accurate information provided to consumers and to families about those choices. Special emphasis should be placed on providing diverse alternatives in treatments, including nondrug alternatives, whenever possible.”

Second, “All mental health service providers within the city of Eugene are urged to offer a full range of choices designed to assist in complete recovery.”

The independent mental health advocacy nonprofit that I direct is publicizing Resolution 4989 internationally in the hope that other cities will pass similar resolutions. I think Opal Whiteley and Ken Kesey would be proud.

David Oaks (This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.) of Eugene is director of MindFreedom International. The next Opal Network meeting is at 2 p.m. Dec. 29 at the Eugene Public Library.

Related content Gateway to information about the Opal Network MindFreedom Lane County