How I am celebrating mental health month. May is Mental Health Month and I want to start this post by giving a shout-out to some of the blogs I follow who have posted about this event plus the link to Mental Health America: “…the nation’s leading community-based non-profit dedicated to helping all Americans achieve wellness by living mentally healthier lives.” – quoted from the website.
Towards the end of this post I will explain how I am celebrating. Spoiler alert… it is by protesting the use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT).
I started this blog in 2014 so they have a few more years of experience writing about these issues than I do 🙂
Note: that 2014 blog refers to my www.mollymchugh.com site where I originally posted bipolar articles, this blog – Bipolar 1 Survivor – was started in April, 2016 and posts were imported from other website.
I am actually very new to mental health blogging – specifically bipolar blogging – having started to write about my 30 years of living with Bipolar 1 Disorder only a few months ago.
I’m playing catch up after many years living outside of the United States with my son and in the process fortunate to connect with some wonderful souls who write about their personal experiences as well as mental health advocacy efforts.
I hope to connect with many more, and add many more interviews to my new ‘Thriving with Bipolar Disorder‘ blog series.
Shout-Outs For Mental Health Month
Shout-outs today are going to:
1. Wendy K. Williamson – author of I’m Not Crazy Just Bipolar and co-author of Two Bipolar Chicks Guide to Survival.
When in the first stages of my book Wendy reached out and did a review for me, offering invaluable feedback and encouragement. I thought I was done with the project, but this gal kicked my butt a bit and got me to write more, fill-out some of the blanks I didn’t want to add (not easy to write-about) and helped make the final book of more value to a reader as well as much more fun to read (details, details… the book needs more details she insisited). Thank you Wendy!
2. Dyane Leshin-Harwood – active bipolar blogger, extremely kind gal who supports many others with bipolar illness. Dyane runs support groups, blogs on the International Bipolar Foundation website and is the author of her soon-to-be published new book: Birth of a New Brain – Healing from Postpartum Bipolar Disorder.
We connected on Facebook and Dyane also helped me polish my book, even doing an unexpected proofread (just wanted to know if it sucked or was a decent read!) and giving some editing tips – thank you Dyane (after reading her comments I re-wrote the whole book!).
She is fun to follow on her blog, with a comments section that gets a bit lively at times – check it out!
She is incredibly inspiring as she is not only a busy wife and Mom to three young children, she is also a nurse practitioner and advocate working to ‘de-stigmatize’ mental illness. We need more medical professionals like Ann!
4. How Do You Sleep at Night Wessley & Fink? – this is a Facebook group for those living with Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) also called Myalgic Encephalomyelitis (ME). I have a form of CFS/ME and have done many natural therapies.
Treatments for the bipolar often made me worse (because they are toxic and I am sensitive to chemicals) so I had to search for other solutions to get better and be well.
The group has been doing an excellent job of supporting psychiatric prisioner Karina Hansen in Denmark. Karina has a severe form of ME, was bedridden and being cared for by her family. She was forcibly taken from her home (February, 2013) as they claimed her condition was ‘psychosomatic’ to then be able to experiment with forced psychiatric treatments.
It is similar to the case of Justina Pelletier who was held as a psychiatric prisoner by Boston Children’s hospital for 16 months and – again – forced psychiatric treatments administered to treat her medical conditon of mitochondrial disease.
Justina has been released and is thankfully home and recovering from the abuse and worsening of her medical conditon she endured. Karina is still being held in Denmark, with her family (other than a few brief visits) not having been allowed to see her for over 2 years. Unbelievable.
These cases are incredibly important for anyone to understand the power of psychiatry and how it can be abused. We all have to stay vigilant and work towards ending these abuses.
5. Mad in America – a professional site about “rethinking psychiatric care in the United States and abroad”. MIA website has articles from psychiatrists, psychologists and other professionals in addition to laypersons and those who have been damaged by psychiatric drugs, ECT and hospitalizations who share their stories. Some of these folks refer to themeselves as “psychiatric survivors”.
I do not share that label or that mode of thought (had excellent psychiatric care when ill in my 20s, not perfect, but definitely not abusive) – though I am lucky as I very well could have been harmed as others feel they have been.
I am an activist-type by nature and the site is very supportive of alternative views of those who are challenging mainstream thought and medical practices and fighting for better alternatives to the issue of mood disorders/spiritual crises/emotional difficulties, etc.
Celebrating Mental Health Month by Protesting Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)
I am personally celebrating this long-held tradition that I have recently become a part of by participating in the International Day of Protest Against Shock Treatment on May 16th.
I learned about this on the MIA website mentioned above with an article about the event written by Ted Chabasinski. Ted is an attorney and a ‘psychiatric survivor’ – being taken from his home at six years old and experimented on with ECT, then kept institutionalized in a psych ward for the 11 years that followed.
Ted led a successful protest to ban electroshock in Berkely, CA in 1982.
When suffering the extreme forms of Manic Depression (now called Bipolar 1 Disorder) in my 20s (i.e. severe suicidal depression and psychosis of mania) I was terrified of ECT. I was terrified of the procedure and that it would be forced on me without my consent.
I am fortunate that did not occur, but many others are not. Implied consent can be extremely difficult when in a ‘I just want to die’ mental state and the reality is those who do consent voluntarily to ECT are not given accurate information about its risks and potential for long-term brain damage. Psychiatrists hide from their infliction of this abuse by not doing long-term studies. How convenient.
ECT is brain damage – it is a procedure that induces seizures in the brain with electrical impulses and has NO medical validity to its use as a medical treatment for mental illness. NONE. No proven cause and effect as to what effect it has on the brain that supports its use other than some people appear to ‘improve’.
The damage it causes to the brain has been studied, a recent one concluding:
“Specifically, the researchers found that the treatment (ECT) dampened the connections within and radiating out from a region called the dorsolateral prefrontal cortex (DLPFC), but only on the left side of the brain.” Dampened? You mean ‘damaged’? Source: How Electroconvulsive Therapy Works For Depression.
An excellent website with MANY references and links to articles about ECT and the brain disabling/damaging effects it has is: ECT Resources Center created by Peter Breggin, M.D. and his wife Ginger.
Psychiatrists who practice ECT love to talk about its “efficacy and safety” (source: Electroconvulsive Therapy: The Second Most Controversial Procedure). They deny and minimize harmful effects and have in actuality NO concrete understanding of what it actually does that gives a short-term beneficial effect in some.
The use of electroconvulsive therapy is a HUGE financial windfall for the hospitals that still administer it – getting a whopping approximate $15,000 per treatment from insurance reimbursements. That is why ECT is still being practiced.
The number of those who are harmed by ECT is far greater than those who say they have had improvement, and improvement is noted for an approximate 4 weeks following treatment – and psychotropic medications are a part of treatment as well in most cases.
I do not judge anyone who has had ECT – I understand very well the horrific reality of severe, long-term depression and the suffering it causes. Persons who are suffering from clinical depression or other forms of severe mental distress deserve compassionate NON-HARMFUL, NON-ABUSIVE treatment options.
The billions of dollars shock doctors and the medical facilities they work in make from ECT should be directed at research for better (non-brain damaging!) treatments for depression. I want to write more about this and share the work of those who also oppose ECT and alternatives they support.
I fought to never have ECT when I was very ill and thankfully never did. I was able to oppose the procedure (as a mental patient no less) thanks to activists like Ted and millions othes worldwide.
I was able to reject having my brain damaged to treat my ‘at the time ill-functioning brain’. I am very grateful plus happy to support the cause on May 16th.
If you would like to participate you can check this list of cities where demonstrations will be taking place on the ECT Justice! website – Electroshock Shock Protest. Contact information for those organizing the event is also included.