Survivors’ group to protest against use of electroshock therapy

A CORK-BASED group of psychiatric survivors and supporters will, tomorrow, continue a campaign for a more humane approach to emotional distress.

Personal testimonies by people who have received Electro Convulsive Therapy (ECT) will be related during a public protest into the continued use of the treatment in psychiatric hospitals.

The protest will be held tomorrow on Cork’s Grand Parade outside Bishop Lucey Park between 2pm and 5pm.

It is being organised by MindFreedom Ireland.

One of the speakers, Martin Hynes, says he was given ECT in 1975 in the former St Anne’s asylum in Cork city when he was aged 18.

“It only came back to me 30 years later when I was getting an angiogram and was given valium. I began ‘tripping out’ and it all started to come back to me.

“Since then I have found out, little by little, what happened to me. But I have had serious problems getting my records under the Freedom of Information Act.”

Mr Hynes claims he was kept in St Anne’s for months, where he was placed in an induced coma after which he was given ECT.

“I have struggled all my life as my memory is very damaged. It is still very badly affected to this day. I almost have OCD tendencies as I have to check and re-check things.”

Electroshock involves passing an electric current of up to 400 volts through the brain inducing a convulsion or grand-mal epileptic seizure which those who support it say helps severely depressed people.

A general anaesthetic is administered along with muscle-relaxing drugs.

Opponents of ECT point to the brain damage and particularly the memory loss associated with the procedure and say any claimed benefits are only temporary, necessitating even more and more sessions of the treatment.

Latest figures from the Mental Health Commission show that in 2009, 24 out of 66 approved centres (36.4%) used ECT.

According to campaigners who want to see it banned, it is of particular significance that Section 59b of the 2001 Mental Health Act allows for the procedure to be given to a person who is “unable or unwilling” to give consent, on the say-so of two consulting psychiatrists.

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