Tag Archives: Mental Health



Lord, make me an instrument of your peace:

I read the word “lord” as “The Force for good in all things” and construe “good” as anything that serves life and joy.

where there is hatred, let me sow love;

This is what all good counseling and self-help tomes teach or ought to. In any situation where hate is evinced or demonstrated, dealing with it with love and detachment can only make things better. That is what Marshall Rosenberg’s Non Violent Communication (NVC) is all about. It is not about eschewing violence per se, though it does that, but about responding with love and empathy to each and every situation we meet in life.

where there is injury, pardon;

This is a difficult plea, for it asks for the strength to meet a personal injury or wound that affects the self with nothing more than pardon and forgiveness. This is a mental act. It does not mean that society should not also deal somehow with the injurer, only that the pleader as an injured person wants not to be embittered or soured by life’s misfortunes and untoward acts by another individual. The plea itself, “where there is injury let me sow pardon” when intentional and sincere, is the first step towards true detachment.

where there is doubt, faith;

Doubt here does not mean a religious doubt and the faith is not a religious faith. I read this is asking to promote faith and trust in life-serving-life and in a world of love where people have become so bitter or worldy that they doubt the reality or even the value in either one. Doubt closes us down, and is a narrowing, a contraction, a pushing away of opportunities that might be trying to come towards us,  whereas faith opens us up to possibility and has a magnetic quality

where there is despair, hope;

Sometimes all you can do, in the face of another’s personal despair is to be there and listen to them, affirming their pain while promoting the ever-present possibility of hope. One of the most loving and in the end healing things anyone ever did for me was to hear my cries of suicidal despair and to take my pain seriously. This lovely woman not only understood that there was a possibility I might not live, but knowing this, she offered to be there with me, accompanying me on the journey at least that far, when I took my own life. She knew she could not stop this act, if it occurred, but also understood that I did not want to die in some closet or under the surface of a full bathtub. I wanted to die with understanding and peace, and wanted someone to be with me who was not afraid or insistent on stopping me. Be horrified if you will, but it was her act, her offer to simply be with me and not make me die alone that turned the corner in my mind. I realized that all my preparations, like Advance Directives had been for life, for survival, and so if I was so intent on suicide, there truly was something amiss…and I could see that proof in my own documents. I wanted to live. I always wanted to live, so even I could see that seeking death in this period of deep despair was not the solution I would want, “in my right mind.” Because of this realization, we got me to a place where I could find help without abuse (i.e. not a hospital) and a way to go on…The result was that I began to heal for real, from lifelong mental illness and disability into a life of love and joy that I could not have anticipated at the time I wanted only to die.

where there is darkness, light (would change “darkness” to “loss of vision”)

Not all darkness is negative. Some darkness like when one sleeps at night is necessary and peace-bringing. People have for centuries equated darkness and blackness with what is evil or bad. No wonder African Americans have been taught to hate the color of their skin… But no more. As in the Yin Yang symbol, darkness and light are equal partners in life and without one we could not experience the other.

But when you lose vision in the sense of truly seeing what is there and what is real, you may need light to shine on your loss, to help you see the truth.

where there is sadness, joy.

And what better goal in life than to sow joy where sadness reigns? Sometimes just being there and understanding a person’s sadness is enough. Not deriding them or trying to artificially buck them up, but to sow joy as a person of joyfulness. It is hard for anyone to remain sad in the presence of real joy. It is infectious and contagious. Come, will you share my joy with me?

O divine Force for good in all things, grant that I may not so much seek

to be consoled as to console,
to be understood as to understand,
to be loved as to love.

So many people do not realize that in doing these acts of kindness towards another, we find relief from our own pain. In consoling and understanding another, we experience consolation and understanding for and of ourselves. When we give love, out of a full and selfless desire, we get back so much more love than we ever could have imagined. We learn to love ourselves.

For it is in giving that we receive,

Giving and generosity are not highly valued in this society. We think, if a person lacks something, their own resources and work should provide it. To receive is for many even more difficult. We do not want charity or to be seen as needy. But sometimes we have to allow others the gift of being able to give to us. That way, they can feel joy and be healed too.

it is in pardoning that we are pardoned,
and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

That is truly the gift that gives…When we do unto others, we also bring about the same outcome and reward for ourselves without even willing it. When we promote forgiveness and act in a forgiving way towards the world, we are ourselves forgiven and learn to love even what mistakes we make or errors we find ourselves in. But there are no mistakes, no errors, when you serve life and joy in all things…Everything that happens in your life leads to where you are, which is here and now, praying to be an instrument of peace in the world. What else could be better? Death has no dominion then…And dying is just sleeping, a rest and a reward.


Yes, when you have understood all that, Amen indeed, “so be it.”



Reviews would be greatly appreciated! Here is link to book at Amazon.com



who may be sitting as I am
in a green recliner with a cup of tea
staring out through the porch
to a darkened streetlamp outside the diner,
with a book in her lap, mine, I hope
the only one I feel I should have to mention
if I mention a book in a poem I write;
to the reader, the nitpicker, the one
who may be wondering why
on p. 47 there are two ands, one
right after another, and whose fault that is;
and to the reader, who may be tired
after a long ride home on the bus
after dark and a meal not worth mentioning
who picks up my book but finds his eyes
closing before he has opened the cover,
I say: Forgive me
I am only a writer sitting in a green recliner
with a cup of tea, I can’t explain
those two ands or the mysterious
streetlamp or warm the feet of a tired
reader in his bed. I can only put music on
and tell him stories to make movies
turn in his head, to let him wake
with the sudden understanding that poetry
may be all it takes to make a life—
well, my life at any rate, and maybe his,
and maybe the nitpicker’s and yours, too,
staring through the porch to the streetlamp
where what happens so mysteriously is poetry—
and the whole night is wrapped
in the words spoken by two strangers
meeting there, or not spoken, which is poetry too,
and all of us who listen are waiting
for the music of what is to happen.

(Last line, thanks to Helen Vendler)


Mosaic: a word that means from the muses, from Moses
and a work of art created from broken fragments of pottery,
stone or glass.


Even the first time, surrender was not hard,
though the grownups and mothers
with their drinks and swizzle sticks
undoubtedly thought it so when you volunteered
your only present that 10th Christmas
to a younger child who wouldn’t understand
being giftless at the tail end of a line to Santa,
nor your inherent sin in being born.
Such generosity should have stayed
between your concept-of-God and you,
but grownup admiration (you could not hope
to make your act unpublic) sullied the soap
of any generosity’s power to cleanse you.
Other atonements followed, only one
almost perfect, being perfectly anonymous
spoiled by an accomplice’s later telling.
Perfection? You never made that grade,
your terrible love for God demanding all life
from your life. No one told you, “Live a lot,”
not in words that made it matter, though
they doubtless counseled, “Live a little.”
You were always in school to be perfect,
never knowing that life is a classroom
where one learns to love flaws
by throwing bad pots, to shatter
them with careful hammer,
assembling beauty from broken things.


Multiples: former shorthand for people diagnosed
with multiple personality disorder, believed to arise
from early sexual trauma and abuse; now considered
a dissociative disorder.


Two suicides and such a multitude of multiples
wrung from their imagination the year I was there
by student psychologists eager to make names for themselves,
the halfway facility would be shut down for good the next.
But not before seeds of uncertain certainties were sown:
repressed memories miraculously recovered from the abyss,
of incests, sodomies, satanic abuses, so even my stalwart insistence
on a happy-go-not-so-unlucky childhood
became stained by the sepia of doubt:
had I really escaped such clutches?

Knowing memory’s foibles, it’s hard to trust
what my sister tells me was true: that there really were
neighborhood “Bad Boys” and a shack in the woods
where they kept a stash of comic books and pin-up calendars,
the price to read there all afternoon if you were a girl
a feel, that I’m not wrong to believe I read my fill
of “Archie” and “Prince Valiant” and “Peanuts” inside.

Though I had to find my own way out afterwards
after they’d gone, taking their comics with them,
leaving just June, now unpinned from the wall
in her tiny shorts, the shine of her raspberry lips
pouting next to a tractor, I recall only
dry motes falling through the last rays
of sun, the smoky smell of sawdust and dust,
and grit under my bare feet, my trembling relief,
as I studied a stroll through the back door at home,
perhaps worse for the wear but on time for supper
so nobody questioned the dirt in my hair.

Institute of Living, 2013, Torture and Illegal Confinement Part 2

Restrained at the Institute of Living 2013

Continued from previous post:

Here’s what SAMHSA the substance abuse and mental health services administration publication has to say on seclusion and trauma:

“Studies suggest that restraints and seclusion can be harmful and is often re-traumatizing for an individual who has suffered previous trauma…

“Further, there is a common misconception that seclusion and restraint are used only when absolutely necessary as crisis response techniques. In fact, seclusion and restraint are most commonly used to address loud, disruptive, noncompliant behavior and generally originate from a power struggle between consumer and staff. The decision to apply seclusion or restraint techniques is often arbitrary, idiosyncratic, and generally avoidable.

“Moreover, some studies indicate that seclusion and restraint use lead to an increase in the behaviors that staff members are attempting to control or eliminate.

I have been traumatized, and not just by hospitals. I was date-raped three times in my twenties and experienced traumatic domestic abuse. The cover sheet on the PAD made very clear that due to these trauma issues, I could not tolerate being secluded or restrained without severe consequences: regression and serious worsening of symptoms. Unfortunately, as soon as the staff saw fit to use physical methods of coercion and control on me, that is to say, punishment, from the first time a staff member grabbed me, all bets were off as to how I would behave. I certainly ceased improving, and my symptoms went downhill. Did they really think they were being kind and compassionate? Violence begets violence….

I tried to get help even when on the unit, at least I tried when I was free to make calls or leave my seclusion, err, forced-voluntary “time-out” two-week-long stay in the so-called side room” last winter. I do not know how many times I called  the patient advocate office, but the sole time anyone made contact was when she came to hand me some paperwork – I believe I was actually in 4 point restraints at the time – some papers I could not read about a forced medication hearing they would be holding. I needed her advocacy, but she never responded to my panicked called. I wanted her help, but she never came by to ask me what I needed. She was less than useful, the fact that I had to go through her, and her refusal to respond contributed to my ongoing panic and desperate feelings of aloneness and depression. No wonder Dr. Banerjee tried to force me into ECT (about which my feelings of horror and revulsion were stated clearly in my PAD).

And where did the ECT discussion come from at all? My PAD states that I would refuse ECT under any and every circumstance. My brother would be my conservator if Banerjee had sought to go down that road, and he would never have made any decision to counter my wishes on that subject. If Banerjee really read my PAD, he would have known that. He told me that “Dr Mucha and I have made the decision to force you to have ECT.” I recorded the conversation in my journal immediately  after it happened and Dr. Banerjee presented it as a two-man decision only, one that I had no choice in.

Regarding ECT and my so-called “depression,” Sanjay Banerjee MD had stopped my 75mg of the antidepressant Zoloft during the first or second week I was there. “Do you really need that?” he had asked, “You don’t seem depressed to me.” Obedient, and in any event glad to get off any medication at any time, I nodded my head, assenting to the change. At least, I thought, if things go haywire, it will not be due to self-fulfilling prophecy, a doctor looking for symptoms he expects to find and conveniently finding them. And at least he will know the reason.

A week later, instead of reinstating the Zoloft, Banerjee blamed my sudden “depression” on my refusal to take Lamictal, a drug I had not taken in 6-9 months. Now he was applying to force me to have ECT, something I was terrified of, convinced it caused deliberate brain damage.

It was this threat, and the brutality with which the decision was made, that started the downhill course of my IOL stay.

The very next day, all hell broke loose. When I entered the conference room, I pushed some important notes I needed Dr Banerjay and Laurie to read across the table in front of them. They refused, claiming that I threw the papers at them. Instead, Dr Banerjay proceeded to berate me, and told me how he had consulted with other hospitals and providers and had read my records against my instructions and Advance Directive, thus violating my HIPAA rights. Moreover, he threatened me with a behavioral treatment plan that would not permit me to do art or writing unless I “behaved.” I hit the roof, telling him I would sue the hospital and complain to JCAHO, then summarily left, slamming the door, an act that stemmed from feelings of utter impotence, because I couldn’t actually say in words anything more effective.

It could have ended there. I could have been left alone, to cool down and calm myself. But no, Dr. Banerjee had to write for stat meds again, and even though I was on the phone and trying to find someone to talk to, to calm myself, I had to be physically dragged off the chair I sat on, away from the phone and brought to the floor in a physical struggle (because they had attacked first, i.e. physically grabbed me, I defended myself, instinctually). They could have waited for me to finish the call. They could have waited to see if I calmed myself. I was not hurting anyone. I did not threaten anyone or myself with harm. ALL that I had done, in terms of physical threats was yell at the phone and refuse to take a pill. Furthermore, it was done and over with. I had left that area and gone to my room. I had then come back and now sat on the chair by the phone, speaking to my interlocutor on the other end. There was no need to pick a fight or encourage a struggle. A wait-and-see policy could have successfully guided things to a better resolution not only for the situation at hand but for my entire hospital stay. As a famous poem by Dylan Thomas ends: “After the first death, there is other.” Once the IOL staff decided to use restraints, there was no going back. The first time broke everything. So, they used them again, and again, and each time more freely and without justification but for convenience and punishment.

Some final points:

CMS regulations on use of Restraint and Seclusion

Restraint or seclusion may only be imposed to ensure the immediate physical safety of the patient, a staff member, or others and must be discontinued at the earliest possible time.

At no point in my stay was anyone ever in immediate physical danger except me, from the staff who were assaulting me…They may have claimed that I bit and fought and resisted, but this was always in response to their manhandling me first. Always. In fact, my medical records show they had restraints re-evaluated and approved while I was sleeping. They even discharged me from the hospital directly from restraints and seclusion, on a day when the usual attending physician happened to be out of town.

(ii) Seclusion is the involuntary confinement of a patient alone in a room or area from which the patient is physically prevented from leaving. Seclusion may only be used for the management of violent or self- destructive behavior. 

This means that IOL’s definition of seclusion as being “kept alone in a room to which the door is locked” is wrong. I protested that I had been secluded all along, for a good two weeks before they instituted formal seclusion. I was not violent or self-destructive, and certainly not imminently dangerous to self or others…Never was anyone in immediate physical danger.) Yet the IOL allowed staff to abuse me and seclude me because I was loud and made people uncomfortable…I was surely not the first person to be so treated and brutalized. It remains traumatizing to this day, and I know it is still happening to patients at the IOL even now, because no one can stop them if they don’t know it is happening. Due to this sort of brutal treatment, my PTSD escalated. I think about what happened there and I can’t stop trembling. I have nightmares every night that literally keep me from sleeping.

“The highest price of all is the price paid by the people who are restrained: their recovery is stalled by a practice that can disempower them, break their spirit, and reignite a sense of helplessness and hopelessness…” from Recovery Innovations

Worst of all, using restraints doesn’t work to make either the patient calmer and safer or the unit a calmer safer environment to work in for staff. In truth, things only go from bad to worse once you restrain an unruly patient…Violence only begets more violence…Moreover, when I was another hospital, I was told by one of their mental health workers that she had wanted to experience the process of being four-pointed so she could identify with patients. She was told no, because as the aide informed me, hospital administrators feared it would be too traumatizing.

Restraints are traumatizing, let’s face it, in order to restrain me the manifold times I have been brutally restrained, putting up no resistance whatsoever, even the most jaded and brutal should have felt a twinge of conscience and questioned why he or she was doing. Unless they had become so inured to cruelty that they no longer considered it degrading and obscene to spread-eagle a naked woman, shackling her legs to the bed posts, so hardened to sadism that they did not consider tying her wrists to the underside of the bed as torture, only a mild form of discipline,  meted out in order to teach her the lesson they had decided to teach her…

I hope you manage to read this letter and look at the supporting materials. You could learn a lot. You have more power than I do in this world, and could change things, if you know they are happening and are wrong. I beg you to think about what I have written to you. The IOL is not an isolated case. Brutality happens in nearly every psychiatric ward and hospital in Connecticut, and I believe this is the reason: As long as seclusion and restraints are permitted in any fashion, brutality and abuse will continue and at rates that are higher than where they are eschewed.

The problem is not that there may remain some exceptional cases who, it is claimed, will need to be restrained, but that someone somewhere will start finding such exceptions and boom, we’ll be right back where we started, with abuse and mistreatment of the most vulnerable. I believe the only way to stop the abuse of seclusion and restraints is to simply stop using them, period. Killing in self-defense is a good defense in law, and every decision to use restraints should be evaluated with similar strict thinking. Say No, we don’t go there, first, and then if done, know that it was a violation of the law and harmed the patient above all else, but under some conditions, this is the lesser evil compared to what might have eventuated without their use.

Now hospital workers are allowed to use restraints and seclusion as legitimate forms of “treatment. But when you permit staff to use violence against even one patient, it imbues their culture with an acceptance of violence as a treatment modality rather than something criminal. Restraints help no one. They are always retaliatory. Always discipline and punishment. Oh, in the short run the unit may seem quieter and easier to manage, but in the subsequent days, when the prisoner in restraints re-enters the community more chaos than ever may ensue.

Please help me. Do something about it today.


Final presentation of “GOING SANE”

Would love your opinions and anyone to share this if they can! The slide show i mean…below…

https://1drv.ms/p/s!AoRt2vNBR5wniy8G–EOk7GXN9X4Going Sane

Artistic Enticements From Marie Abanga!

Wow! Thats all i can say! One lovely, gutsy, charming lady and my friend. Marie A. Abanga from Cameroon. Brava!!!

Find her blog here: https://marieabanga.wordpress.com marie abanga’s blog

“This little light of mine, am gonna let it shine…

This little love of mine, am gonna let it flow…

This little life of mine, am gonna live it full …

Let it shine, let it flow, live it full…

This little laugh of mine, am gonna laugh it loud…

This little smile of mine, am gonna smile it broad…

This little frown of mine, am gonna frown it all

Laugh it loud, smile it broad, frown it all…

This little dream of mine, am gonna dream it real…

This little tale of mine, am gonna tell it all…

This little cheer of mime, am gonna share it all…

Dream it real, tell it all, share it all…

And when all is said, am gonna say it still…

And when all is done, am gonna do it still…

And when all is lost. Am gonna find it still…

Say it still, do it still, find it still…

And when my light goes dim, am gonna grateful go…

And when my turn is up, am gonna graceful go…

And when my life is nought, am gonna let it go…

Let it go, let it go, let it go”

by Marie A Abanga



New Book Launch Announcement!

LEARNING TO SEE IN THREE DIMENSIONS, BOOK LAUNCH INFO: JUNE 2. ARTWALK FRIDAY evening in Brattleboro Vermont. 6-7pm at the Hooker Dunham Theatre and Gallery. Or call the gallery for a privately arranged tour. Or contact pam for further information and a tour of the gallery. Any group of disabled individuals or those who cannot make it to the gallery for the show (it is not not not “accessible”) _ i will provide a reading/ talk and books for sale to any group who can get me there  to speak to them, providing  transportation to make it possible for me to meet with them. All entirely free of charge. 


New Art: “Using Gustav Klimt’s THE KISS, A Collage”

USing Klimt #2: THe Kiss


New work in progress by pamela spiro wagner, a large collage about 2′ by 3′ made of tiny scraps of torn up reproductions of Gustav Klimt’s artwork and reassembled as my version of The Kiss…

Psychiatrie Macht Frei…(huh?) Art Work

All i can say is everything in this picture was as deliberate as i know how to make it, without planning it at all, and it contains symbolism both public and private. With reference to my signature quotation, (see below)  it makes use of what the negative spaces  offered me without leaving any in the end.

“There is no negative space, only the shapely void. Hold your hands out, cup the air. To see the emptiness you hold is to know that space loves the world.” P. Wagner

(for those who are not familiar with WWII, over the gates over Auschwitz, the notorious concentration camp where Jews and many other despised groups were taken to be tortured and killed, were emblazoned the words: ARBEIT MACHT FREI, or “work will set you free,” which was of course a lie and a horrible joke, because it was only meant to kill you at what was not a labor camp but just a death camp. )


Psychiatrie Macht Frei? Mixed media anti-psychiatry picture, 24"by 19"
Psychiatrie Macht Frei? Mixed media anti-psychiatry picture, 24″by 19″

Psychiatrie Macht Frei? Mixed media anti-psychiatry picture, 24″by 19″


Terrified Patient Having Shock Treatments
Terrified Patient Having Shock Treatments



Report prepared for the National Head Injury Foundation

September 1991 by Linda Andre

Committee for Truth in Psychiatry



Electroshock, variously known as electroconvulsive therapy, ECT, shock treatment, or simply shock, is the practice of applying 70 to 150 volts of household electric current to the human brain in order to produce a grand mal, or generalized, seizure. A course of ECT usually consists of 8 to 15 shocks, administered every other day, although the number is determined by the individual psychiatrist and many patients receive 20, 30, 40 or more.

Psychiatrists use ECT on persons with a wide range of psychiatric labels, from depression to mania, and have recently begun to use it on persons without psychiatric labels who have medical diseases such as Parkinson’s disease.

A conservative estimate is that at least 100,000 persons receive ECT each year, and by all accounts this number is growing. Two-thirds of those being shocked are women, and more than half of ECT patients are over the age of 65, although it has been given to children as young as three. ECT is not given at all in most state hospitals. It is concentrated in private, for-profit hospitals.

ECT drastically changes behavior and mood, which is construed

as improvement of psychiatric symptoms. However, since psychiatric symptoms usually recur, often after as little as one month, psychiatrists are now promoting “maintenance” ECT—one electrical grand mal seizure every few weeks, given indefinitely or until the patient or family refuses to continue.


There are now five decades of evidence for ECT brain damage and memory loss. The evidence is of four types: animal studies, human autopsy studies, human in vivo studies which use either modern brain-imaging techniques or neuropsychological testing to assess damage, and survivor self-reports or narrative interviews.

Most of the studies of the effects of ECT on animals were done in the 1940s and ’50s. There are at least seven studies documenting brain damage in shocked animals (cited by Friedberg in Morgan, 1991, p. 29). The best known study is that of Hans Hartelius (1952), in which brain damage was consistently found in cats given a relatively short course of ECT. He concluded: “The question of whether or not irreversible damage to the nerve cells may occur in association with ECT must therefore be answered in the affirmative.”

Human autopsy studies were done on persons who died during or shortly after ECT (some died as a result of massive brain damage). There are more than twenty reports of neuropathology in human autopsies, dating from to 1940s to 1978 (Morgan, 1991, p. 30; Breggin, 1985, p.4). Many of these patients had what is called modern or “modified” ECT.

It is necessary to clarify briefly here what is meant by “modified” ECT. News and magazine articles about ECT commonly claim that ECT as it has been given for the past thirty years (that is, using general anesthesia and muscle-paralyzing drugs to prevent bone fractures) is “new and improved”, “safer” (i.e. less brain-damaging) than it was in the 1940s and ’50s.

Although this claim is made for public relations purposes, it is flatly denied by doctors when the media is not listening. For example, Dr. Edward Coffey, head of the ECT department at Duke University Medical Center and a well-known advocate of ECT, tells his students in the training seminar “Practical Advances in ECT: 1991”:

The indication for anesthetic is simply that it reduces the anxiety and the fear and the panic that are associated or that could be associated with the treatment. OK? It doesn’t do anything else beyond that…There are, however, significant disadvantages in

using an anesthetic during ECT…The anesthetic elevates seizure threshold… Very, very critical…

So it is necessary to use more electricity to the brain, not less, with “modified” ECT, hardly making for a safer procedure. In addition, the muscle-paralyzing drugs used in modified ECT amplify the risks. They make the patient unable to breathe independently, and as Coffey points out this means risks of paralysis and prolonged apnea.

Another common claim of shock doctors and publicists, that ECT “saves lives” or somehow prevents suicide, can be quickly disposed of. There is simply no evidence in the literature to support this claim. The one study on ECT and suicide (Avery and Winokur, 1976) shows that ECT has no effect on the suicide rate.

Case studies, neuroanatomical testing, neuropsychological testing, and self-reports that remain strikingly similar over 50 years testify to the devastating effects of ECT on memory, identity, and cognition.

Recent CAT scan studies showing a relationship between ECT and brain atrophy or abnormality include Calloway (1981); Weinberger et al (1979a and 1979b); and Dolan, Calloway et al (1986).

The vast majority of ECT research has focused and continues to focus on the effects of ECT on memory, for good reason. Memory loss is a symptom of brain damage and, as neurologist John Friedberg (quoted in Bielski, 1990) points out, ECT causes more permanent memory loss than any severe closed-head injury with coma or almost any other insult to or disease of the brain.

Reports of catastrophic memory loss date to the very beginning of ECT. The definitive study of ECT’s memory effects remains that of Irving Janis (1950). Janis conducted detailed and exhaustive autobiographical interviews with 19 patients before ECT and then attempted to elicit the same information four weeks afterwards. Controls who did not have ECT were given the same interviews. He found that “Every one of the 19 patients in the study showed at least several life instances of amnesia and in many cases there were from ten to twenty life experiences which the patient could not recall.” Controls’ memories were normal. And when he followed up half of the 19 patients one year after ECT, there had been no return of memory (Janis, 1975).

Studies in the 70s and 80s confirm Janis’ findings. Squire (1974) found that the amnesic effects of ECT can extend to remote memory. In 1973 he documented a 30-year retrograde amnesia following ECT. Freeman and Kendell (1980) report that 74% of patients questioned years after ECT had memory impairment. Taylor et al (1982) found methodological flaws in studies that purport to show no memory loss and documented deficits in autobiographical memory several months after ECT. Fronin-Auch (1982) found impairment of both verbal and nonverbal memory. Squire and Slater (1983) found that three years after shock the majority of survivors report poor memory.

The highest governmental authority on medical matters in the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), agrees that ECT is not good for your health. It names brain damage and memory loss as two of the risks of ECT. The FDA is responsible for regulating medical devices such as the machines used to administer ECT. Each device is assigned a risk classification: Class I for devices that are basically safe; Class II for devices whose safety can be assured by standardization, labeling, etc.; and Class III for devices which pose “a potential unreasonable risk of injury or illness under all circumstances. As a result of a public hearing in 1979, at which survivors and professionals testified, the ECT machine was assigned to Class III. There it remains today, despite a well-organized lobbying campaign by the American Psychiatric Association. In the files of the FDA in Rockville, Maryland, are at least 1000 letters from survivors testifying to the damage that was done to them by ECT. In 1984 some of these survivors organized as the Committee for Truth in Psychiatry to lobby for informed consent as a way of protecting future patients from permanent brain damage. Their statements challenge the assumption that survivors “recover” from ECT:

Most of my life from 1975-1987 is a fog. I remember some things when reminded by friends, but other reminders remain a mystery. My best friend since high school in the 1960s died recently and with her went a big part of my life because she knew all about me and used to help me out with the parts I couldn’t remember. (Frend, 1990)

I haven’t had a shock for over ten years now but I still feel

sad that I can’t remember most of my late childhood or any of my high school days. I can’t even remember my first intimate experience. What I know of my life is second hand. My family has told me bits and pieces and I have my high school yearbooks. But my family generally remembers the “bad” times, usually how I screwed up the family life and the faces in the yearbook are all total strangers. (Calvert, 1990)

As a result of these “treatments” the years 1966-1969 are almost a total blank in my mind. In addition, the five years preceding 1966 are severely fragmented and blurred. My entire college education

has been wiped out. I have no recollection of ever being at the University of Hartford. I know that I graduated from the institution because of a diploma I have which bears my name, but I do

not remember receiving it. It has been ten years since I received electroshock and my memory is still as blank as it was the day I left the hospital. There is nothing temporary about the nature of memory loss due to electroshock. It is permanent, devastating, and irreparable. (Patel, 1978)



Both psychiatrist Peter Breggin (Breggin,, 1991, p. 196) and

ECT survivor Marilyn Rice, founder of the Committee for Truth in Psychiatry, have pointed out that minor head injury as a result of trauma often occurs without loss of consciousness, seizures, disorientation, or confusion, and is thus much less traumatic than a series of electroshocks. A better analogy would be that each individual shock is the equivalent of one moderate to severe head injury. The typical ECT patient, then, receives at least ten head injuries in rapid succession.

Proponents as well as opponents of ECT have long recognized it as a form of head injury.

As a neurologist and electroencephalographer, I have seen many patients after ECT, and I have no doubt that ECT produces effects identical to those of a head injury. After multiple sessions of ECT, a patient has symptoms identical 😮 those of a retired, punch-drunk boxer.. .After a few sessions of ECT, the symptoms are those of moderate cerebral contusion, and further enthusiastic use of ECT may result in the patient functioning at a subhuman level. Electroconvulsive therapy in effect may be defined as a controlled type of brain damage produced by electrical means. (Sament, 1983)

What shock does is throw a blanket over people’s problems. It would be no different than if you were troubled about something in your life and you got into a car accident and had a concussion. For a while you wouldn’t worry about what was bothering you because you would be so disoriented. That’s exactly what shock therapy does. But in a few weeks when the shock wears off, your problems come back. (Coleman, quoted in Bielski, 1990)

We don’t have a treatment. What we do is inflict a closed-head injury on people in spiritual crisis.. .closed-head injury! And we have a vast literature on closed-head injury. My colleagues are not eager to have literature on electroshock closed-head injury; but we have it in every other field. And we have considerably more than people are allowing for here today. It is electrical closed-head injury. (Breggin, 1990)

There has never been any debate about the immediate effects of a shock: it produces an acute organic brain syndrome which becomes more pronounced as shocks continue. Harold Sackeim, the ECT establishment’s premier publicist (anyone who has occasion to write about or refer to ECT, from Ann Landers to a medical columnist, is referred by the APA to Dr. Sackeim) states succinctly:

The ECT-induced seizure, like spontaneous generalized seizures in epileptics and most acute brain injury and head trauma, results in

a variable period of disorientation. Patients may not know their names, their ages, etc. When the disorientation is prolonged, it is generally referred to as an organic brain syndrome. (Sackeim, 1986)

This is so expected and routine on ECT wards that hospital staff become inured to making chart notations like “Marked organicity” or “Pt. extremely organic” without thinking anything of it. A nurse who has worked for years on an ECT ward says:

Some people seem to undergo drastic personality changes.

They come in the hospital as organized, thoughtful people who

have a good sense of what their problems are. Weeks later I see

them wandering around the halls, disorganized and dependent. They

become so scrambled they can’t even have a conversation. Then

they leave the hospital in worse shape than they came in.

(Anonymous psychiatric nurse, quoted in Bielski, 1990)

A standard information sheet for ECT patients calls the period

of most acute organic brain syndrome a “convalescence period” and warns patients not to drive, work, or drink for three weeks (New York Hospital-Cornell Medical Center, undated). Coincidentally, four weeks is the maximum time period for which proponents of ECT can claim alleviation of psychiatric symptoms (Opton, 1985), substantiating the statement made by Breggin (1991, pp. 198-99) and throughout the ECT literature that the organic brain syndrome and the “therapeutic” effect are the same phenomenon.

The information sheet states as well that after each shock the patient “may experience transitory confusion similar to that seen in patients emerging from any type of brief anesthesia.” This misleading characterization is belied by two doctors’ published observations of patients after ECT.(Lowenbach and Stainbrook, 1942). The article begins by stating “A generalized convulsion leaves a human being in a state where all that is called the personality has been extinguished.”

A compliance with simple commands like opening and closing the eyes and the appearance of speech usually coincide. The first utterances are usually incomprehensible, but soon it is possible to recognize first the words and then sentences, although they may have to be guessed at rather than directly understood…

If at this time patients were given a written order to write their name, they would not ordinarily follow the command…if then the request was repeated orally, the patient would take the pencil and write his name. At first the patient produces only scribbling and has to be constantly urged to continue. He may even drop back into sleep. But soon the initial of the first name may be clearly discernible…Usually 20 to 30 minutes after a full-fledged convulsion the writing of the name was again normal…

The return of the talking function goes hand in hand with the writing ability and follows similar lines. The muttered and seemingly senseless words and maybe the silent tongue movements are the equivalent of scribbling.. .But as time goes on it “is possible to establish question and answer sessions.. .From now on, the perplexity of the patient arising from his inability to grasp the situation pervades his statements.

He may ask if this is a jail. ..and if he has committed a crime.. The efforts of the patient to re-establish their orientation almost always follow the same line: “Where am I.”… know you” (pointing to the nurse)… to the question “What is my name?” “I do not know”…

The patient’s behavior when asked to perform a task such as to get up from the bed where he lies demonstrates another aspect of the process of recovery.. .he does not act according to voiced intentions. Sometimes urgent repetition of the command would set off the proper movements; in other cases beckoning had to be initiated by pulling the patient from the sitting position or removing one leg from the bed.. .But the patient then frequently stopped doing things and the next series of actions, putting on his shoes, tying the laces, leaving the room, had each time to be expressly commanded, pointed out, or the situation had to be actively forced. This behavior indicates lack of initiative…

It is possible, indeed likely, that a patient and her family could read the entire information sheet mentioned earlier and have

no idea that ECT involves convulsions. The words “convulsion” or “seizure” appear not at all. The sheet states that the patient will have “generalized muscular contractions of a convulsive nature”.

Recently Dr. Max Fink, the country’s best-known shock doctor, offered to let the media interview a patient right after a course of electroshock… for a fee of $40,000 (Breggin, 1991, p. 188).

It is common for persons who have received ECT to report being “in a fog”, without any of the judgment, affect, or initiative of their former selves, for a period of up to one year post-ECT. Afterwards they may have little or no memory of what happened during this period.

I experienced the explosion in my brain. When I woke up from the blessed unconsciousness I did not know who I was, where I was, nor why. I could not process language. I pretended everything because I was afraid. I did not know what a husband was. I did not know anything. My mind was a vacuum. (Faeder, 1986)

I just completed a series of 11 treatments and am in worse shape than when I started. After about 8 treatments I thought I had improved from my depression.. . I continued and my effects worsened. I began experiencing dizziness and my memory loss increased. Now that I had the 11th my memory and thinking abilities are so bad I wake up in the morning empty-headed. I don’t remember many past events in

my life or doing things with the various people in my family. It is hard to think and I don’t enjoy things. I can’t think about anything else. I can’t understand why everyone told me this procedure was so safe. I want my brain back. (Johnson, 1990)



The loss of one’s life history–that is, loss of part of the self–is in itself a devastating handicap; but added to this unique quality of ECT head injury are the cognitive deficits associated with other types of traumatic brain injury.

There is not now nearly enough research on the nature of ECT cognitive deficits, or of the impact of these deficits on social roles, employment, self-esteem, identity, and long-term quality of life for survivors. There is only one study which examines how ECT (negatively) affects family dynamics (Warren, 1988). Warren found that ECT survivors “commonly” forgot the very existence of their husbands and children! For example, one woman who had forgotten she had five children was furious when she found out her husband had lied to her, telling her the children belonged to a neighbor. Husbands frequently used their wives’ amnesia as an opportunity to reconstruct marital and family history, to the husbands’ advantage. Clearly, Warren’s study suggests there is much to explore in this area.

There is currently no research which addresses the question of how best to meet the rehabilitative and vocational needs of ECT survivors. One such study, proposed but not implemented in the 1960s, is described in Morgan (1991, pp. 14-19). Its hopeful conclusion that “with enough data, it may some day be possible to deal therapeutically with ECT-damaged patients, perhaps with some radically new approach to psychotherapy, or direct re-education or modification of behavior” has, a generation later, not come to pass. Funding sources such as the National Institute on Disability and Rehabilitation Research must be encouraged to sponsor such research.

The research which exists shows that sensitive psychometric testing always reveals cognitive deficits in ECT survivors. Even given the differences in available testing methods, the nature of these deficits has remained stable over 50 years. Scherer (1951) gave tests of memory function, abstraction, and concept formation to a group of survivors who had received an average of 20 shocks (using brief-pulse or square wave current, the type that is standard today) and to a control group of patients who did not receive ECT. He found that “lack of improvement as between pre- and post-shock results may indicate that shock has injured the patient to the extent that he is unable to achieve his premorbid intellectual potentialities, even though he can shake off the intellectually debilitating effects of the psychosis.” He concluded that “harmful organic results in areas of intellectual function.. .may nullify the partial benefits of the treatment.”

Templer, Ruff and Armstrong (1973) found that performance on

the Bender Gestalt test was significantly worse for persons who had received ECT than for carefully matched controls who had not.

Freeman, Weeks and Kendell (1980) matched a group of 26 ECT survivors with controls on a battery of 19 cognitive tests; all of the survivors were found to be significantly cognitively impaired. The researchers attempted to attribute the impairment to drugs or mental illness, but could not do so. They concluded that “our results are compatible” with the statement that ECT causes permanent mental impairment. The interviews with survivors revealed almost identical deficits:

Forgetful of names, gets easily sidetracked and forgets what he was going to do.

Forgets where she puts things, can’t remember names.

Memory poor and gets confused, to such an extent that he loses jobs.

Difficult to remember messages. Gets mixed up when people tell her things.

Said she was known in her bridge club as the “computer because of her good memory. Now has to write things down, and misplaces keys and jewelry.

Can’t retain things, has to make lists.

Templer and Veleber (1982) found permanent irreversible cognitive deficits in ECT survivors given neuropsychological testing. Taylor, Kuhlengel and Dean (1985) found significant cognitive impairment after only five shocks. “Since cognitive impairment is such an important side effect of bilateral ECT, it seems important to define as carefully as possible which aspects of the treatment are responsible for the deficit,” they concluded. Although they did not prove their hypothesis about the role of an elevation in blood pressure, “It is important to continue to search for the cause or causes of this impairment. If this important side effect could be eliminated or even modified, it could only be a service to patients…” But there is no separating the so-called therapeutic effects from the disabling cognitive effects.

A study-in-progress designed and implemented by members of the National Head Injury Foundation (SUNY Stony Brook, unpublished thesis project) with the same size sample as the Freeman et al study uses a simple self-scoring questionnaire to evaluate cognitive deficits in both the acute and chronic organic brain syndrome stages. The study also elicits information about coping strategies (self-rehabilitation) and about the amount of time it takes to accommodate to deficits.

All respondents in the study indicated they suffered from common symptoms of head injury both during the year after ECT and many,

many years afterwards. The average number of years since ECT for

the respondents was twenty-three. 80% had never heard of cognitive rehabilitation.

Only one-fourth felt they had been able to adjust to or compensate for their deficits by their own efforts. Most indicated they were still struggling with this process. Of those few who felt they had adjusted or compensated, the average number of years to reach this stage was fifteen. When those who had adjusted or compensated were asked how they did it, the most frequently cited answer was “hard work on my own.”

Respondents were asked if they would have liked acknowledgment of or help with their cognitive problems during the year after ECT, and whether they would still like help regardless of how long ago they had been shocked. All but one of the respondents said they would have wanted help in the post-ECT year, and 90% said they still wanted help.

In the last several years with the increased availability of neuropsychological testing, increasing numbers of ECT survivors have taken the initiative where researchers have failed, and have had testing done. In every known case, testing has shown unmistakable brain dysfunction.

Patients’ accounts of cognitive deficits from diverse sources

and across continents remain constant from the 1940s to the 1990s. If these people are imagining their deficits, as some shock doctors like to claim, it is unthinkable that patients over five decades should all imagine exactly the same deficits. One cannot read these accounts without calling to mind the description of minor head injury in the National Head Injury Foundation brochure “The Unseen Injury: Minor Head Trauma”:

Memory problems are common.. .You may be more forgetful of names, where you put things, appointments, etc. It may be harder to learn new information or routines. Your attention may be shorter, you may be easily distracted, or forget things or lose your place when you have to shift back and forth between two things. You may find it harder to concentrate for long periods of time, and become mentally confused, e.g. when reading. You may find it harder to find the right word or express exactly what you are thinking. You may think and respond more slowly, and it may take more effort to do the things you used to do automatically. You may not have the same insights or spontaneous ideas as you did before.. .You may find it more difficult to make plans, get organized, and set and carry out realistic goals…

I have trouble remembering what I did earlier this week. When I talk, my mind wanders. Sometimes I can’t remember the right word to say, or a co-worker’s name, or I forget what I wanted to say. I have been to movies that I can’t remember going to. (Frend, 1990)

I was an organized, methodical person. I knew where everything was. I’m different now. I often can’t find things. I’ve become very scattered and forgetful. (Bennett, quoted in Bielski, 1990)

These words eerily echo those of the ECT survivors described by Dr. M.B. Brody in 1944:

(18 months after 4 shocks) One day three things were missing, the poker, the paper, and something else I cannot remember. I found the poker in the dustbin; I must have put it there without remembering. We never found the paper and I am always very careful of the paper. I want to go and do things and find I have already done it. I have to think about what I am doing so that I know I have done it.. .it is uncanny when you do things and find you cannot remember them.

(One year after 7 shocks) The following are some of the things I forget: the names of people and places. When the title of a book is mentioned I may have a vague idea that I have read it, but cannot remember what it is about. The same applies to films. My family tells me the outlines and I am able to remember other things at the same time.

I forget to post letters and to buy small things, such as mending and toothpaste. I put things away in such safe places that when they are needed it takes hours to find them. It did seem that after the electric treatment there was only the present, and the past had to be recalled a little at a time.

All of Brody’s survivors had incidents of not recognizing familiar people:

(One year after 14 shocks) There are many faces I see that I

know I should know quite a lot about, but only in a few cases can I recall incidents connected with them. I find I can adjust myself to these circumstances by being very careful in making strong denials, as fresh personal incidents constantly crop up.

38 years later, a woman who had 7 shocks wrote:

I was shopping in a department store when a woman came over to me, said hello and asked me how I was. I had no idea who she was or how she knew me.. .1 couldn’t help feeling embarrassed and helpless, as if I were no longer in control of my faculties. This experience was to be the first of many encounters in which I would be unable to recall people’s names and the context in which I knew them. (Heim, 1986)

The deficits in storing and retrieving new information associated with ECT may severely and permanently impair learning ability. And, just as the NHIF brochure states, “Often these problems are not encountered until a person returns to the demands or work, school, or home.” Attempting to go or return to school especially overwhelms and commonly defeats ECT survivors:

When I returned to classes I found I couldn’t remember material I had learned earlier, and that I was totally unable to concentrate… My only choice was to withdraw from university. If there was one area in which I had always excelled, it was in school. I now felt like a complete failure and that I’d never be able to return to university. (Heim, 1986)

Some of the things I tried to study was like trying to read a book written in Russian—no matter how hard I tried I could not get the sense of what the words and diagrams meant. I forced myself to concentrate but it continued to appear gibberish. (Calvert, 1990)

In addition to destruction of entire blocks of pre-ECT memories I have continued to have considerable difficulty in memory with regard to academic pursuits. To date, of embarrassing necessity I have been forced to tape-record all education materials that require memorization. This has included basic classes in accounting and word-processing materials. I was forced to retake accounting in 1983. Now, I am again forced to retake a basic one-semester course in computerized word processing. Currently, I am finding it extremely embarrassing and hurtful when fellow classmates (however innocently) refer to my struggles in grasping my study materials, thusly: “You are an AIR-BRAIN!” How can I explain that my struggles are due to ECT? (Winter, 1988)

I started school full time and found I did much better than

I could imagine remembering information on field placement and classes—but I couldn’t understand what I read or put ideas together—analyze, draw conclusions, make comparisons. It was a shock. I was at last taking courses on theory.. .and ideas just didn’t remain with me. I finally accepted the fact that it was just going to be too much torture for me to continue so I quit my field placement, two courses, and attended only one discussion course until the end of the semester when I withdrew. (Maccabee, 1989)

It is often the case that the ECT survivor is disabled from

her or his previous work. Whether or not a survivor returns to work depends on the type of work previously done and the demands it makes on intellectual functioning. The statistics on employment of ECT survivors would seem to be just as dismal as statistics on employment of head-injured persons in general. In the SUNY survey, two-thirds of the respondents were unemployed. Most indicated that they had been employed prior to ECT and unemployed since. One elaborated:

At the age of 23 my life was changed because after ECT I experienced disabling difficulty understanding, recalling, organizing and applying new information and also problems with distractibility and concentration. I had ECT while I was teaching and because my level of functioning had changed so dramatically I quit my job. My abilities have never returned to pre-ECT quality. Pre-ECT I’d been able to function in a totally individualized sixth-grade classroom where I designed and wrote much of the curriculum myself. Due to the problems I had after ECT I never returned to teaching. (Maccabee, 1990)

A nurse writes of a friend at one year post-ECT:

A friend of mine had 12 ECT treatments in September-October 1989. As a result, he has retrograde and anterograde amnesia and is unable to perform his work as a master plumber, cannot remember his childhood and cannot remember how to get around the city where he has lived all his life. You can imagine his anger and frustration.

The psychiatrists have been insisting that his problem is not ECT-related but is a side effect of his depression. I have yet

to see a severely depressed person fight so hard to regain their ability to think clearly and be able to go back to work again. (Gordon, 1990)

She has stated clearly the impossible situation of ECT survivors. There can be no help for them until there is recognition of the traumatic brain injury they have sustained and its disabling effects.


ECT survivors have the same needs for understanding, support,

and rehabilitation as other head injury survivors. If anything, it could be said that their needs may be greater, since the massive retrograde amnesia unique to ECT can precipitate an even greater crisis of identity than occurs with other head injuries.

Neuropsychologist Thomas Kay, in his paper Minor Head Injury: An Introduction for Professionals, identifies four necessary elements in successful treatment of head injury: identification of the problem, family/social support, neuropsychological rehabilitation, and accommodation; Identification of the problem, he says, is the most crucial element since it must precede the others. Tragically at this time it is the rule rather than the exception that for ECT survivors none of these elements come into play.

This is not to say that ECT survivors never successfully build a new self and a new life. Many courageous and hardworking survivors have—but they have until now always had to do it alone, without any help, and it has taken a sizable chunk of their lifetimes to do it.

As time goes on, I have made a great effort to regain the maximum use of my brain by forcing it to concentrate and to try to remember what I hear and read. It has been a struggle… I feel like I have been able to maximize the undamaged parts of my brain.. .I still mourn the loss of a life that I didn’t have. (Calvert, 1990)

Survivors are beginning to share their hard-won strategies with other survivors, professionals who would help them would do well to listen to those whose daily business, even decades after ECT, is surviving.

I tried a course in general psychology, which I’d had As on in college. I quickly discovered that I couldn’t remember anything if I just read the text.. .even if I read it several times (like four or five). So I programmed my materials by writing out questions for each sentence and writing the answers on the back of the cards. I then quizzed myself until the material was memorized. I have all the cards from two courses. What a stack… I memorized the book, practically… and worked five to six hours a day on weekends and three or four during the work week… It was quite different from when I was in college. Then, I read things and remembered them. (Maccabee, 1989)

She also describes her own cognitive retraining exercise:

The main exercise consists primarily of counting from 1-10 while visualizing, as steadily as possible, some image (object, person, etc.) I thought of this exercise because I wanted to see if I could practice using the right and left sides of my brain. Since I began this I think I read that that isn’t what I was doing. But, it seemed to work. When I first started the exercise I could hardly hold an image in mind, much less count at the same time. But I have become quite good at it and I relate it to an improved ability to deal with distractions and interruptions.

Similar exercises, in fact, are practiced in formal cognitive rehabilitation programs.

Often self-rehabilitation is a desperate, trial-and-error process that takes many lonely, frustrating years. A woman describes how she taught herself to read again after ECT, at age 50:

I could process language only with difficulty. I knew the words, how they sounded, but I had no comprehension.

I did not literally start at “scratch”, as a preschooler, because I had some memory, some understanding of letters and sounds—words—but I had no comprehension.

I used TV for newscasts, the same item in the newspaper, and tried to match these together to make sense. Only one item, one line. Try to write it in a sentence. Over and over, again and again.

After about six months (this was daily for hours), I tried Reader’s Digest. It took me a very long time to conquer this–no pictures, new concepts, no voice telling me the news item. Extremely frustrating, hard, hard, hard. Then magazine articles. I did it! I went on to “For Whom the Bell Tolls” because I vaguely remembered I had read it in college and had seen the movie. But it had many difficult words and my vocabulary was not yet at the college level, so I probably spent two years on it. It was 1975 when I felt I had reached the college level in reading.(I started in 1970.) (Faeder, 1986)

One survivor for whom the slow process of rehabilitation has taken two decades expresses the hope of many others that the process might be made easier for those being shocked in the ’90s:

I might never have thought that rehabilitation was something that ECT patients could benefit from until I was examined in 1987, at my request, at a local psychogeriatric center because I worried that perhaps I had Alzheimer’s disease because my intellectual functioning still caused me problems. During the psychological testing, which extended over a period of two months due to scheduling problems, I observed that my concentration improved and I functioned better at work. I reasoned that the “time-encapsulated” efforts to concentrate and focus my attention carried over. The tests were not meant to be rehabilitative, but they somewhat served this purpose—and convinced me that sequential retraining or practicing of cognitive skills could be beneficial to ECT patients. Of course, this was almost 20 years after ECT…

I hold a responsible, though poorly paying, job as an administrative assistant for a professional organization—performing at tasks that I never thought I would be able to do again. I might have been able to do them earlier if I’d had rehabilitation training. At this time I am concerned about the plight of ECT patients who are still struggling. While these ECT “complainers” are at risk of becoming increasingly depressed—and perhaps suicidal—because

of their disabilities, professionals continue to argue about whether or not ECT causes brain damage using insufficient and in some cases outdated data.

I wish that some brain trauma research and rehabilitation

center would accept a few ECT patients and at least see if practicing or “reprogramming” of cognitive skills could result

in improved performance. (Maccabee, 1990)

In 1990, three ECT survivors were treated in the cognitive rehabilitation program of a New York City hospital. Slowly, attitudes and preconceived ideas are changing.



ECT has gone in and out of fashion during its 53-year history; now on the wane, now making a comeback. Whatever happens in this decade (ironically designated by President Bush the Decade of the Brain), ECT survivors cannot afford to wait until a favorable political climate allows them the help they need. They need it now.

There are some hopeful signs. The 1980s saw an unprecedented boom in ECT (medical malpractice) lawsuits citing brain damage and memory loss, to the point where settlements are steadily increasing for those with the stamina and resources to pursue legal redress. The ECT machine remains in Class III at the FDA. ECT survivors are joining head injury support groups and organizations in record numbers.

State legislatures are toughening ECT laws, and city councils

are taking courageous stands against ECT. On February 21, 1991, after well-publicized hearings at which survivors and professionals testified, the Board of supervisors of the City of San Francisco adopted a resolution opposing the use of ECT. A bill pending in the New York State Assembly (AB6455) would require the state to keep statistics on how much ECT is done, but its accompanying strongly worded memorandum opens the door for stricter measures in the future. In July 1991 the Madison, Wisconsin city council proposed a resolution to recommend a ban on the use of ECT. (Shock was banned in Berkeley, California in 1982 until the local psychiatrists’ organization overturned the ban on a technicality.) The council’s Public Health Committee unanimously agreed that accurate information about the effects of ECT on memory must be presented to patients, and they are writing a resolution to contain full and accurate information. And in August 1991 ECT survivors testified, and a manuscript containing accounts of memory loss by 100 survivors was presented, at hearings in Austin, Texas, before the Texas Department of Mental Health. Subsequently the Department’s regulations were revised to contain a stronger warning about permanent mental dysfunction.


It is difficult, even in so many pages, to paint a full picture of the suffering of ECT survivors and the devastation experienced not only by the survivors but by their families and friends. And so the last words, chosen because they echo the words of so many others over the years, belong to a former nurse estranged from her husband and living on Social Security Disability, fighting in the legal system for redress and working with an advocacy group.

What they took from me was my “self”. When they can put a dollar value on theft of self and theft of a mother I would like

to know what the figure is. Had they just killed me instantly the kids would at least have had the memory of their mother as she

had been most of their lives. I feel it has been more cruel, to

my children as well as myself, to allow what they have left to breathe, walk, and talk.. .now the memory my kids will have is of this “someone else” who looks (but not really) like their mother. I haven’t been able to live with this “someone else” and the life I’ve lived for the past two years has not been a life by any stretch of the imagination. It has been a hell in the truest sense of the word.

I want my words said, even if they fall on deaf ears. It’s not likely, but perhaps when they are said, someone may hear them and at least try to prevent this from happening again. (Cody, 1985)





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Frend, Lucinda (1990). Letter of August 4.

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Gordon, Carol (1990). Letter of December 2.

Hartelius, Hans (1952). Cerebral changes following electrically induced convulsions. Acta Psychiatrica et Neurologica Scandinavica, Supplement 77.

Heim, Sharon (1986). Unpublished manuscript.

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Opton, Edward (1985). Letter to the members of the panel, NIH Consensus Development Conference on Electroconvulsive Therapy, June 4.

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Sackeim, H.A. (l986). Acute cognitive side effects of ECT. Psychopharmacology Bulletin, 22, 482-484.

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Squire, Larry (1974). Amnesia for remote events following electroconvulsive therapy. Behavioral Biology, 12(1), 119-125.

Squire, Larry and Slater, Pamela (1983). Electroconvulsive therapy and complaints of memory dysfunction: a prospective three-year follow-up study. British Journal of Psychiatry, 142, 1-8.

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For copyright information, contact Linda Andre, (212) NO-JOLTS.



Center for Behavioral Health Statistics and Quality, Behavioral Health Trends in the United States: Results from the 2014 National Survey on Drug Use and Health (2015). The range of conditions includes depression, which the CDC estimates will soon become the second leading cause of disability in the world

Folks, below this I post part of Hillary Clinton’s grand Mental Health Care plan, not because I believe in it, but because I want you all to see what our next president has in store for us. And because I hope you noted what the last thirty years have wrought in DAMAGES. Yes, after all the miracul0us advances of SSRI’s and SRI’s and adjunctive atypical anti-psychotics added to these so-called miracle anti-depressants. OOOooh, we have gotten so much healthier on our miracle pills.YES! We have gotten so much better that we now, get this, commit suicide at a rate 24% HIGHER than we did in 1999, In fact we kill ourselves at our highest rate in 30 years.

Well, I am sorry, people, but this is fucking BULLSHIT, just bullshit. You don’t believe me? Okay, i am used to that. No one ever believes me. So go ahead and read what dear Hillary posted in her Mental Health Care Plan below, from the National Institute of Mental Health. Those are not my numbers but right from the NIMH. So let’s go ahead, take our happy pills and tell ourselves we feel better, go right ahead, but what do we do when another buddy kills herself or himself despite the sweet help of his or her neighborhood pusher, er, psychiatrist???

Well, don’t tell me they did not warn us: ANTI- DEPRESSANTS DO NOT WORK THEY KILL. And it is posted very clearly right there, above.

Okay. Being forwarned is only part of the battle, we have to listen and we have to act.

Sorry for being so strident, I am really sorry.


Go ahead and discount me, I do not care. But look at the statistic I posted above and ignore the implications at your peril.




Federal Support for Suicide Prevention

Suicides, which are usually fueled by mental illness, are rising among numerous population groups, from adolescents and college students[11] to veterans[12] and older adults.[13] The overall rate of suicide increased by 24 percent between 1999 and 2014, and is now at its highest level in 30 years.[14] Over 40,000 Americans die of suicide every year, making it the tenth-leading cause of death nationally.[15] As the former director of NIMH, Dr. Tom Insel, often notes, suicides have 11 victims: the person who dies, and at least 10 people close to them who will never be the same. Hillary believes that suicide is a critical issue that she will prioritize as president. She will:

  • Create a national initiative around suicide prevention across the lifespan that is headed by the Surgeon General: As president, Hillary will move toward the goal of “Zero Suicide” that has been promoted by the Department of Health and Human Services. She will direct all relevant federal agencies, including HHS, the VA, and the Department of Education, to research and develop plans for suicide prevention in their respective settings, and create a cross-government initiative headed by the Surgeon General to coordinate these efforts. She will also launch a citizen input and feedback mechanism, to enable outside groups to comment on agency recommendations, and explore how we can harness technology to reach out to people who need support.
  • Encourage evidence-based suicide prevention and mental health programs in high schools. In 2013, a survey of high school students revealed that 17 percent considered attempting suicide in the last year, with 8 percent actually attempting it. The suicide rate among American Indian/Alaska Native adolescents is even higher, at 1.5 times the national average. There are effective ways to respond. It is critical that school districts emphasize evidence-based mental health education, so that students, teachers, and school nurses are aware of the warning signs and risk factors of mental illness and how to address them. The Model School District Policy on Suicide Prevention, released by four leading mental health organizations, includes concrete recommendations that school districts can follow. Hillary will direct the Department of Education to emphasize mental health literacy in middle and high schools and will work with regional and national PTA, school counselor associations, and associations of secondary school principals to encourage school districts to adopt this model policy.
  • Provide federal support for suicide prevention on college campuses. Hillary believes that every college campus should have a comprehensive strategy to prevent suicide, including counseling, training for personnel, and policies that enable students to take leave for mental health Such multi-layered approaches have a proven track record of decreasing suicides. For instance, the Air Force launched an initiative in 1996 that brought together multiple intervention programs and reduced the suicide rate among Air Force personnel by nearly a third in under a decade. Groups such as the Jed Foundation, American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, the Suicide Prevention Resource Center, and Active Minds have created frameworks around suicide prevention tailored for colleges and universities. Hillary will dramatically increase funding for campus suicide prevention, investing up to $50 million per year to provide a pathway for the country’s nearly 5,000 colleges – whether private or public, two-year or four-year – to implement these frameworks on behalf of students.
  • Partner with colleges and researchers to ensure that students of color and LGBT students are receiving adequate mental health coverage. Evidence suggests that the psychological needs of students of color are disproportionately unmet, impeding their ability to adapt to college life. LGBT students face added burdens as well, with gay youth being four times more likely than their straight peers to attempt suicide. Hillary will direct the Departments of Education and Health and Human Services to work with universities, researchers and community programs to determine how best to meet and respond to the challenges these students face and to provide specialized counseling.



A poem plus art.

Edited on July 29, 2016 and reposted.

The poem below is the introduction to my third book, and my second book of poems, this time with art, which should be published in the spring of 2017 by Sundog Poetry and Green Writers Press, both Vermont publishers.  Wowee!!! I am thrilled. Tamra Higgins of Sundog has generously said that she wants to make sure that I have an art show and reading at the time of the book launching. Moreover  I believe that Sydney Lea, Vermont’s wonderful former poet laureate, who had agreed to write the forward for it when it was still going to be published by CKP will still do so for the new publishers. I feel especially blessed!!!

I am very much a novice watercolorist and these are two beginning paintings.




who may be sitting as I am
in a green recliner with a cup of tea
staring out through the porch
to a darkened streetlamp outside the diner,
with a book in her lap, mine, I hope
the only one I feel I should have to mention
if I mention a book in a poem I write;
to the reader, the nitpicker, the one
who may be wondering why
on p. 47 there are two ands, one
right after another, and whose fault that is;
and to the reader, who may be tired
after a long ride home on the bus
after dark and a meal not worth mentioning
who picks up my book but finds his eyes
closing before he has opened the cover,
I say: Forgive me
I am only a writer sitting in a green recliner
with a cup of tea, I can’t explain
those two ands or the mysterious
streetlamp or warm the feet of a tired
reader in his bed. I can only put music on
and tell him stories to make movies
turn in his head, to let him wake
with the sudden understanding that poetry
may be all it takes to make a life—
well, my life at any rate, and maybe his,
and maybe the nitpicker’s and yours, too,
staring through the porch to the streetlamp
where what happens so mysteriously is poetry—
and the whole night is wrapped
in the words spoken by two strangers
meeting there, or not spoken, which is poetry too,
and all of us who listen are waiting
for the music of what is to happen.