Yesterday I had the opportunity to lecture alongside Professor Garry Walter at the NSW Institute of Psychiatry. The lecture focused on electro-convulsive therapy (ECT), its history, the benefits, risks, misconceptions, and the latest research.
As a young person who went through the medical system, from a GP, to psychologist, psychiatrist, hospitalisations, and eventually receiving ECT, I was able to share my insights into what it can be like on the receiving end of an array of mental health treatments; what worked, what didn't, the exhausting process of retelling your story over and over, the devastation of another failed medication leading to increased hopelessness, the fear, judgement from others, and much more.
I was asked many questions, but there was one that stood out:
"There are many people who demonise ECT, what would you say to them?"
I smiled, "if it wasn't for ECT or something equivalent, I wouldn't be here".
"I was ready, prepared, and had 'rationally' convinced myself that taking my life was the only option. Nothing was going to stop me."
"I know there is a lot of fear, but most of that fear comes from how ECT has been misrepresented, not how it actually is."
"When you are dealing with an illness that takes lives, and depression can take lives, it is important to keep all viable options available."
"Will it work for everyone? No. Are there side effects? Yes. But! there are many illnesses that have treatment options that won't work for everyone, that will have side effects, and although it may not be the first option it might be a necessary one, even as a last resort."
"Yes, it's a serious treatment option, but much like there are heart specialists, there are doctors who specialise in ECT."
"Regardless of what medical intervention is implemented, it is only one of the steps to recovery. ECT saved my life, but it certainly isn't what maintains it."
"The maintenance of my good health is due to the changes I made to my lifestyle, as well as incorporating the tools I learned. This allows to me say and genuinely believe that I conquered my depression."
"If I hadn't made the lifestyle changes that I did, I would have gone backwards."
For professionals, Electroconvulsive Therapy in Children and Adolescents can be found at Oxford University Press.