ECT should be a last resort

TW – contains content some people may find upsetting.
I had tried all sorts of medications, they were not working.
I had tried psychotherapy, I was too unwell to engage.
I was suffering with severe depression, I was not eating and was fixated on suicide, I was so unwell I was merely existing – I could still fake normality with most people but ultimately I was going to find a way to complete suicide – I consider that a certainty.
I was sectioned in hospital as it was deemed I no longer had a capacity to make decisions about my health.
As a last resort, I was given Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT).
I was told about all the possible life changing side effects, but ultimately, I didn’t have a choice. My mental state was going to kill me. Whether I wanted it or not, ECT was the only option.
NICE (National Institute for Health and Clinical Excellence) guidelines state it should be a last resort, at that point, the benefits far outweigh the risks… at any point before that, it’s tough to justify using ECT as other treatment (with fewer side effects) should be tried first.
Recently, I, and another lady called Sue, were interviewed for a video feature on metro.co.uk
Sue and I had different experiences but we agree on the most important fundamental aspects.
ALL treatments should be given with informed consent and ECT should be a absolute last resort!
Please bear in mind I had a terrible virus and my voice sounds terrible but watch and read this video feature on Metro.co.uk – let me know what you think.
All treatments have side effects, but if you’re dying, you, or the doctor treating you has to weigh up the potential benefits with the possible side effects of any treatment.
I learnt about ECT at medical school, we were taught that the side effects could be severe but patients with severe mental illness could experience positive outcomes. This was reiterated to me when my psychiatrist suggested it could work for me.
I don’t know why doctors would use ECT before trying other treatments, only careful, non-biased investigation of all the facts in each case would uncover this.
Sue states that the hospital where she had her treatment is using it 12 times more than any other areas of the country. There is no way of knowing the reason for this without further investigation but it would interesting to see why other hospitals use ECT less. I don’t like to speculate, it could be any combination of medications, therapies (psychological and occupational) as well as more 1-1 support, for example.
It would also be interesting to compare suicide rates between hospitals – if other hospitals are not using ECT when it could save their life, that would also explain the isolated statistic.
Audits and reports tend to throw up differences without looking into the whys or the hows. There also tends to be a lack of reporting making the sample size very small – therefore the results, although relevant and interesting, may not be significant.
I was a doctor too but it’s my illness that stopped me practicing, not ECT. I’m just glad my illness didn’t take my life as well as my career.
For more information about ECT please read here (Royal College of Psychiatrists), here (Mindful Survivor) or here (Metro.co.uk).

2 thoughts on “ECT should be a last resort

  1. Hi Frances I’m the editor of a mental health nursing journal and I’m interested to know if you would be willing to contribute a piece on your ECT experience for an upcoming special issue we are producing. Thanks

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