I have almost a total memory loss about my entire childhood. I was 16 years of age
when I received shock treatment. I have very little memory of the two or three years
following the shock treatment.
GREG REISNER (U.S. electroshock survivor), testimony at a hearing on electroshock
conducted by the Berkeley Human Relations and Welfare Commission, 24 April 1982,
published in “Electroshock Hearings in Berkeley,” Madness Network News, Spring
1940s-1950s — During the 1940s and 1950s, electroshock was frequently given in the
office of the psychiatrist without the benefit of anesthesia, muscle relaxants, or
emergency equipment. In certain cases, the psychiatrist would make a “house call” with
his ECT machine, accompanied by a nurse or an assistant, and the treatment would be
administered in the patient’s own bed.
ZIGMOND M. LEBENSOHN (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), “The History of
Electroconvulsive Therapy in the United States and Its Place in American Psychiatry: A
Personal Memoir,” Comprehensive Psychiatry, May-June 1999.
1950s — Dr. Willard Pennell, who has used ECT since the 1950s, recalled when entire
wards full of patients in state hospitals would be given shock treatment on the same
“They didn’t have the Anectine then,” he said, “and they didn’t use an anesthetic.
Patients could look up the row of beds and see other patients going into epileptic
seizures, one by one, as the psychiatrists moved down the row. They knew their turn was
coming, and it was no doubt terrifying.”
CHARLES PETIT (U.S. journalist), “Shudders over Shock Treatments,” San Francisco
Chronicle, 30 December 1974.
Early 1960s — Having never had this experience myself [referring to electroshock], I can
only repeat what others tell me of it. Their opinions run all the way from one by Geri: “I
had five shock treatments in ’54, and they snapped me out of a deep depression and
withdrawal. I was afraid of everything… and I was born again — just felt wonderful? I
took them without medication [i.e., anesthetics and muscle relaxants]. I asked for it that
way — to one that says: I couldn’t breathe! It’s death! You feel these electric shocks
going through your body, closing in on you, smothering you — tight about your chest —
and you think you’re going to die! People do die from shock treatments. It’s horrible. I
felt I was really dying — trying to come back… and maybe I wouldn’t make it”! [ellipsis
Once prescribed — and apparently each doctor is autonomous in regard to
prescribing shock treatment — there is absolutely nothing a patient can do to avoid it.
“They grab you! said one patient. “They force you into it. No matter how you scream!
And I’ve heard some of those screams of protest — sometimes screams of defiance: “You
bastards! You Goddamn sons-of-bitches! You have no feeling!”
But most of them submit supinely — like sheep being led to slaughter — because
they’ve been drugged to do so.
Today I overheard a fairly new patient beseeching her sister to intercede with her
doctor and ask him to stop shock treatments. I doubt if the sister will, for — with the
modern reverence for psychiatrists — most laymen are inclined to believe that whatever
any doctor prescribes is the best possible treatment for their relative. And how could the
relative know what’s best for her? She’s supposed to be out of her mind!
JANE DOE (pseudonymous electroshock survivor), “Shock,” Crazy! 1966. In the
book’s foreword, J.A. wrote: “Three months after the events related here, the author was
again committed to another mental hospital. This time she was given electric shock
treatments, which she says brainwashed her of all recent happenings, even the memory
of having written this book!”
1960 — I can still feel the cold, sticky linoleum beneath my bare feet as I shuffled my
way to the bathroom on those freezing early mornings during the winter of 1960. The
sensations and memories are as much a part of me now as they were then, perhaps even
more vivid now, as I realize the shocking brutality of my treatment as an adolescent girl
locked into a mental institution because of my overwhelming feelings of depression.
We were lined up side by side in our beds on those mornings, four girls, huddled
beneath our cold, white sheets, petrified and silent. I can see the nurse in her starched
white uniform. I can smell the alcohol she rubbed on my bottom, and I can feel the sting
of the sharp needle as she injected the insulin into me: insulin coma therapy, five days a
week for six weeks.
After we were groggy from the insulin, but often not yet in a coma, the second
treatment would begin. I can still see him walking through the door to our bare hospital-
green room, his face, gray-white in color, and his black suit and black shoes. He carried
all his equipment in a small black suitcase in one hand, this man of death and
destruction. He set up his machine behind our heads, one by one. Curled up beneath our
sheets, heads covered, as though seeking womb-like protection, we were, as they peeled
the sheets off us, one by one, forcing us onto our backs, bare and open and vulnerable. I
was second in the line-up.
Before being turned, I would often peek out from a small, secret opening in my sheet
to see what they were doing to Susan, the first to receive the treatment. I would make
myself watch as if it might prepare me in some way. And when she would shake violently
all over, my eyes would close. I could no longer watch. I would shiver beneath my sheet
in fear. And then they would come to me. I can still feel the sticky, cold jelly they put on
my temples. My arms and legs were held down. Each time, I expected I would die. I did
not feel the current running through me. I did wake up with a violent headache and
nausea every time. My mind was blurred. And I permanently lost eight months of my
memory for events preceding the shock treatments. I also lost my self-esteem. I had
been beaten down.
But I was lucky. I was very, very lucky. On one of those cold, winter mornings exactly
thirty years ago, they injected my friend, Susan, in the bed next to me, with more insulin
than her frail young body could tolerate. A few hours later, as the four of us were having
our mandatory afternoon nap, still huddled beneath our sheets, my friend Susan went to
sleep and never woke up. She had just turned seventeen. When she died, she became a
part of me.
On the winter afternoons after Susan died, I can remember my “mental health care”
continued by my being taken into that same shock room, where we also slept at night, by
a mental health worker. He would lock the door, push me up against the wall, and
sexually abuse me. My head foggy from the insulin, dazed from the drugs, I was
petrified. I did not scream. I did not dare. I survived. And I did not tell anyone for a
long, long time.
DOROTHY WASHBURN DUNDAS (U.S. electroshock survivor and writer), opening
paragraphs, “The Shocking Truth” (For Susan Kelly), published in Jeanine Grobe, ed.,
Beyond Bedlam: Contemporary Women Psychiatric Survivors Speak Out, 1995.
Dundas was institutionalized for three years during which time she was subjected to 40
insulin comas and 10 electroshocks at Baldpate Hospital in Georgetown, Massachusetts.
1960 — By the roots of my hair some god got hold of me.
I sizzled in his blue volts like a desert prophet.
SYLVIA PLATH (U.S. electroshock survivor, writer, and poet), “The Hanging Man,”
1960, Sylvia Path: Collected Poems, ed. Ted Hughes, 1981.
See Plath’s entries in 1953 above and 1963 below.
1960 — In the present study, 33 women in the group reviewed were treated with
electroshock therapy during gestation. Clinical states of severe agitation and/or
catatonic withdrawal were considered indications for such treatment, as it was felt that
potential hazards of malnutrition, dehydration, and violent injury existed for both
mother and fetus. Thus, electroshock therapy was given as an emergency form of
treatment. There were 2 infant deaths in the 33 cases treated…. [There was serious fetal
damage in two other cases.]
DAVID E. SOBEL (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), “Fetal Damage Due to ECT, Insulin
Coma, Chlorpromazine, or Reserpine,” Archives of General Psychiatry, June 1960.
Compare: “Pregnancy is definitely no contraindication [for ECT] which is again in
accordance with the known fact that pregnant epileptic women are not threatened by
abortion or premature birth. Even in patients treated at termination of pregnancy
convulsions do not produce labor pain or rupture of the membrane. Followups also did
not show any damage to the child” (LOTHAR B. KALINOWSKY [German-born U.S.
electroshock psychiatrist], “Electric and Other Convulsive Treatments,” published in
Silvano Arieti, ed., American Handbook of Psychiatry, vol. 5, ch. 27, 1975).
1961 — In some mental hospitals, it has been said, one way of dealing with female
patients who became pregnant on the hospital grounds was to perform hysterectomies.
Less common, perhaps, was the way of dealing with those patients, sometimes called
“biters,” who continued to bite persons around them: total extraction of teeth. The first
of these medical acts was sometimes called “treatment for sexual promiscuity”; the
second, “treatment for biting.” Another example is the fashion, now sharply declining in
American hospitals, of using lobotomy for a hospital’s most incorrigible and
troublesome patients. The use of electroshock, on the attendant’s recommendation, as a
means of threatening inmates into discipline and quieting those that won’t be
threatened, provides a somewhat milder but more widespread example of the same
process. In all of these cases, the medical action is presented to the patient and his
relatives as an individual service, but what is being serviced here is the institution.
ERVING GOFFMAN (U.S. sociologist), “The Medical Model and Mental
Hospitalization,” Asylums: Essays on the Social Situation of Mental Patients and Other
1961 — I think one should go to the extreme of always explaining to a patient if he is
going to get electroshock why he is going to get it and what it is going to be like and so
forth and so on. But as far as getting permission from the patient is concerned, this is
MANFRED GUTTMACHER (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), testimony at hearings
on the “Constitutional Rights of the Mentally Ill” before the Subcommittee on
Constitutional Rights of the Committee on the Judiciary, United States Senate, 29
1961 — What these shock doctors don’t know is about writers and such things as
remorse and contrition and what they do to them. They should make all psychiatrists
take a course in creative writing so they’d know about writers….
Well, what is the sense of ruining my head and erasing my memory, which is my
capital, and putting me out of business? It was a brilliant cure but we lost the patient.
It’s a bum turn, Hotch, terrible.
ERNEST HEMINGWAY (U.S. electroshock patient and writer), remarks to the
author who was visiting him at the Mayo Clinic in Rochester, Minnesota where
Hemingway was being electroshocked in 1961, quoted in A. E. Hotchner, Papa
Hemingway, ch. 14, 1967. During one of his stays at the Mayo Clinic, Hemingway had
posted on the door of his room a notice, the first sentence of which read, “FORMER
WRITER ENGAGED IN PREPARATION OF SCHEDULED FULL-SCALE NEWS
CONFERENCE” (quoted in Frederick Busch, “Fear Was His Beat,” New York Times
Book Review, 25 July 1999). A few days after being released from the Mayo Clinic
following a second electroshock series in 1961, Hemingway killed himself with a shotgun
blast to the head at the age of 61. Several years later, Howard P. Rome, his Mayo Clinic
psychiatrist, was elected president of the American Psychiatric Association.
1961 — There were 3 deaths among 267 patients who underwent intensive electroshock
between 1946 and 1960 [editor’s summary].
JAMES L. SAGEBIEL (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), “Regressive Convulsive
Therapy and Lobotomy in the Treatment of Mental Disorders,” Diseases of the Nervous
System, April 1961.
1961 — On becoming king [of Morocco] in 1961, Hassan [II] had asked the [Central
Intelligence] Agency to restructure and train his own security service. It had become one
of the harshest in the Arab world, a rival in sheer cruelty to the shah’s SAVAK. The
Moroccan security service was fully staffed with doctors who supervised a wide range of
tortures of political detainees at a purpose-built detention center near Tazmarent. It
included isolation chambers…. The center also had several Page-Russell electroshock
machines, which were routinely used on prisoners. During the post-shock periods,
Moroccan physicians questioned the detainees, seeking information about opponents to
GORDON THOMAS (British writer), Journey into Madness: The True Story of Secret
CIA Mind Control and Medical Abuse, ch. 19, 1989.
1957-1961 — Husbands might wish to have their wives forget the emotional troubles,
including marital strife, which precipitated hospitalization. Mr. Karr [a pseudonym]
commented on his wife’s long-term memory loss as proof of her successful cure by ECT,
saying that her memory was still gone, especially for the period when she felt ill, and
that “they did a good job there.” These husbands used their wives’ memory loss to
establish their own definitions of past situations in the marital relationship….
Mr. Karr… expressed pleasure to the research interviewer that electroshock therapy
had made his wife forget her hostile outbursts against him in the pre-hospital period.
CAROL A. B. WARREN (U.S. sociologist), “Electroconvulsive Therapy, the Self, and
Family Relations,” Research in the Sociology of Health Care, vol. 7, 1988. Warren’s
study was based on interviews with 10 women (and their husbands) who had been
institutionalized a total of 17 times at Napa State Hospital (California) between 1957 and
1961. In the “Discussion” section of the same article, Warren commented: “Treatments
such as ECT intervene between the prehospital and posthospital reality-negotiations of
marital partners. In the wake of hospital treatment, the couple ‘constructs not only
present reality but reconstructs past reality as well, fabricating a common memory that
integrates the recollections of the two individuals’ [Peter Berger and Hansfried Kellner].
When the recollections of one partner are to some degree erased, the dynamic
reconstruction of reality shifts a little, or a lot” [editor’s emphasis].
1957-1961 — Rita Vick [a pseudonym] had forgotten, after ECT, the five of her seven
children who had been removed from her custody. One day she found an album in the
Vick house and asked her husband “who were all those children?” For fear of upsetting
her with renewed thoughts of the custody loss, Mr. Vick told her that they were a
CAROL A. B. WARREN, “Electroconvulsive Therapy, the Self, and Family Relations,”
Research in the Sociology of Health Care, vol. 7, 1988.
1962 — There are some of us Chronics that the staff made a couple of mistakes on years
back, some of us who were Acutes when we came in, and got changed over. Ellis is a
Chronic came in as an Acute and got fouled up bad when they overloaded him in that
filthy brain-murdering room that the black boys call the “Shock Shop.” Now he’s nailed
against the wall in the same condition they lifted him off the table for the last time in the
same shape, arms out, palms cupped, with the same horror on his face. He’s nailed like
that on the wall, like a stuffed trophy. They pull the nails when it’s time to eat or time to
drive him in to bed or when they want him to move so’s I can mop the puddle where he
KEN KESEY (U.S. writer), One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest (a novel), ch. 1, 1962.
See first entry in 1975 below.
1962 — “The Shock Shop, Mr. McMurphy, is jargon for the EST machine, the Electro
Shock Therapy. A device that might be said to do the work of the sleeping pill, the
electric chair, and the torture rack. It’s a clever little procedure, simple, quick, nearly
painless it happens so fast, but no one ever wants another one. Ever.”
“What’s this thing do?”
“You are strapped to a table, shaped, ironically, like a cross, with a crown of electric
sparks in place of the thorns. You are touched on each side of the head with wires. Zap!
Five cents’ worth of electricity through the brain and you are jointly administered
therapy and a punishment for your hostile go-to-hell behavior, on top of being put out of
everyone’s way for six hours to three days, depending on the individual.”
KEN KESEY, One Flew over the Cuckoo’s Nest, ch. 1, 1962.
1961-1962 — When I was young, I wanted to be a priest and I guess that was the dream
of my childhood, and I went into a seminary at the age of 16 and later went to novitiate.
And one day I woke up in a hospital. And on my medical records it said that I was a
catatonic schizophrenic and that therefore they gave me electroshock treatment. The
treatment itself was horrendous.
I remember two of them from my medical records which stated that I had 17 of them.
I remember being strapped down, totally powerless, electrodes being applied to my
head, injection of drugs, and a hum starting to appear inside my head, increasing in
volume till my whole head vibrated, and finally at the last moment it was like a crack,
like a gunshot, which blew me into nonexistence.
Coming to and not knowing who I was or where I was. An incredible fog. That was
horrendous, and I remember the last treatment that I had. I told the psychiatrist when I
was lying on the table, “I don’t want this treatment, I am afraid of it, it is horrendous, it
kills me, it’s very painful.”
And he said, “There is no pain. We give you a drug and there is no pain. Don’t be so
childish, don’t be a baby about it. Just relax and take the drug.” And that was such a
[pause] demeaning… [ellipsis in original]. I was even denied the ability to say that my
experience is that I feel pain in this treatment, that I am being a baby… [ellipsis in
original]. He is the expert. He has this credential. He went to school and studied this. He
has been certified by the state. But I am the person going through this, and I have no
I came home a vegetable. My mother took me home. I was a little child without the
ability to do anything. I used to sit around in the front room and think about suicide.
Now that’s pretty drastic for someone who has grown up a Catholic to think about
At some point I had to make the decision whether to kill myself or live and I made a
decision to live, even though that seemed like a great leap into some unknown, whatever
the world was, and it was a [pause] I took the leap. It is strange because, as a child, I had
all these kinds of mystical experiences or whatever, experiences with God, and that was
destroyed and that whole feeling of nature and that whole sense of being in tune with
the universe somehow or with some relationship not only to nature, but to community,
to people around me, it was destroyed.
It has taken years to regain that. And there are two years, and this is the thing that
infuriates me, there are two years of my life that are just nothing, that are just like pain,
jellied pain, that has no meaning.
STEVEN SEARS (U.S. electroshock survivor, human rights activist, and office
manager), testimony at a hearing on electroshock conducted by the Berkeley Human
Relations and Welfare Commission, 24 April 1982, published in “Electroshock Hearings
in Berkeley,” Madness Network News, Spring 1983. In addition to the ECT, Sears
underwent 19 insulin subcoma treatments at Merciville Sanitarium in Aurora, Illinois,
in 1961-1962 at the age of 19.
1963 — Intelligence may be the pride — the towering distinction of man; emotion gives
color and force to his actions; but memory is the bastion of his being. Without memory,
there is no personal identity, there is no continuity to the days of his life. Memory
provides the raw material for designs both small and great. Thus, governed and
enriched by memory, all the enterprises of man go forward.
D. EWEN CAMERON (Scottish-born U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), “The Process of
Remembering,” British Journal of Psychiatry, May 1963.
See Cameron’s entry in 1957 above; and Linda Macdonald’s in 1963 below.
1963 — Thousands of papers, scientific and otherwise, poured in to support this form of
therapy [ECT] and assess its values. Countless lives, sufferings and tragedies had been
spared. However, the undaunted spirit of [Hugo] Cerletti did not rest. He “wanted to
know what was at the basis of electro-shock recovery.” He formulated a theory that the
humoral and hormonal changes provoked in the brain by the epileptic attack led to the
formation of substances which he called “acroagonines” — substances when injected
into the patient would have therapeutic effects similar to those resulting from electroshock.
Death found Cerletti still feverishly working to establish the validity of this brilliant
Cerletti was essentially an individualistic and liberalistic personality. His views on
human rights led him, at the end of the Second World War, to clash with the Italian
authorities because of his antifascist leanings.
He spent most of his life in Rome and loved “his city.” Whoever had the rare
opportunity to assess his humanistic knowledge during his promenades throughout the
city had a memory to cherish and to carry in his heart. Cerletti had the supreme gift of
being a keen observer and a perceptive one. He knew the limitations of a human mind
but he had the thirst for knowledge of eternal youth. He was a friend to many, a teacher
to all, a born patrician.
To those who live in his sphere of influence, to those who have known and benefited
from his work, his end does not signify disappearance but continuation of his superb
leadership [closing paragraphs].
FERRUCCIO di CORI (Italian electroshock psychiatrist), “In Memoriam,” Journal of
Neuropsychiatry, October 1963.
See Leonard Frank’s entry in 1938 and Ugo Cerletti’s in 1959 above; and George Mora’s in 1963 below.
1963 — The name on my admission chart at the Allan Memorial reads “Linda Helen
Cowan (nee Macdonald).” It was March 28, 1963. A young wife and mother, I was to
become one of the last victims of Dr. Ewen Cameron’s experiments [“depatterning
treatment”] on the human brain. I am 49 years old today. I accept my age only because
my birth certificate validates the time, day, and the place of my birth. In reality, my
reality, I am 23. I have no memory of existing prior to October 1963, and the
recollections I do have of events of the following years until 1966 are fuzzy and few….
Dr. Cameron’s “brainwashing” experiments wiped my brain clean of every experience
I had ever known….
My parents were introduced to me that winter of 1963/64. Of course, I did not know
them. The children came back from wherever they had been living. I had no idea who
they were, and I certainly had no sense of what a “mother” was. They were all “older”
than I; the oldest could read and write — their mother could not….
A woman robbed of her life. I had decided to share my life with you. If sharing my
personal experience can help to educate the public so that such abusive experimentation
will not, for any reason, with or without consent, be performed on human beings ever
again, indeed something positive will have emerged from a living hell.
LINDA MACDONALD (Canadian electroshock survivor), “Breakthrough” (1986),
published in Bonnie Burstow and Don Weitz, eds., Shrink Resistant: The Struggle
Against Psychiatry in Canada, 1988.
See D. Ewen Cameron’s entries in 1957 and 1963 above.
1963 — In 1963 I had been discharged from Henderson General Hospital in Hamilton,
Ontario half way through a series of about 15 electroshocks. I had dutifully gone back
and had the rest of them as an outpatient. A month later I was back in the hospital again
— this time in what was then called the Ontario Hospital (Hamilton) and later renamed
Hamilton Psychiatric Hospital — because I wasn’t any better. I was just as depressed as I
had been to start with. This time the experience of the hospital was the reverse.
Now I actually got to see this person who happened to be called a psychologist and I
talked. Eventually I dealt with my problem, got out of the hospital, and went home.
Up to that point, I really had not done a lot of thinking about ECT. I knew it hadn’t
worked but assumed that it must be me, that I was an exception, that they would not
have this treatment unless it was a good treatment, and that I had been unlucky. I had
been one of those rare people for whom this supposedly wonderful treatment didn’t
Then over time I started noticing some very significant changes in myself. There were
three things that stood out. The first one was that I wasn’t as smart as I had been. I
would still get to the same places, but it was a lot harder work. It took me longer. I had
to think harder to do things that I could have done before much more easily.
The second thing I noticed was that there were chunks from my life that were
missing. I kept waiting for them to come back and they didn’t. There was just a sort of
random missingness. There wasn’t a pattern to it. It’s just that bits and pieces were
missing. These chunks were gone and they never came back.
There was also what you might call selective interference with my ability to remember
things. I discovered, for instance, that I couldn’t memorize music anymore. I played the
piano. I would sit down and try to memorize a piece of music, which had never been
difficult for me. I couldn’t do it. I would spend eight hours trying to memorize one page
of music. I still have exactly the same problem.
And the third thing that happened is that I was having these odd little sleeping spells
that resembled narcolepsy. I would just sort of fade out. A couple of minutes later, I
would fade back in again. That had never happened to me before. I started thinking that
all of these things might have something to do with the shock treatment but in a very
general sort of way. I didn’t really put it together. I wondered. I speculated. But I didn’t
really start to put it together for fifteen years.
CARLA McKAGUE (Canadian electroshock survivor and attorney), Bonnie Burstow
interview, in 1994, presented as written testimony at public hearings on electroshock
(modified by McKague), Toronto, 9 April 2005,
1963 — In 1959 and in 1961, at the invitation of the American Psychiatric Association,
[Ugo Cerletti, the discoverer of electroshock,] attended the annual conventions in
Philadelphia and in Chicago, respectively. Although more than eighty, those who met
him there noticed an alert expression and inquisitive mind. His interests embraced
many aspects of modern psychiatry as well as the progress achieved in this country.
Those who saw him must have also been impressed by his kind and unassuming
attitude. A true humanist, lover of art in all its expressions, and an excellent
draughtsman, Cerletti will remain prominent among those who contributed to the
greatest degree to the battle against mental illness.
GEORGE MORA (Italian-born U.S. psychiatrist), closing sentences, “In Memoriam:
Ugo Cerletti, M.D. (1877-1963),” American Journal of Psychiatry, December 1963.
See Leonard Frank’s entry in 1938 and Ferruccio di Cori’s in 1963 above.
1963 — At the head of the cot is a table on which sits a metal box covered with dials and
gauges. The box seems to be eyeing me copperhead-ugly, from its coil of electric wires,
the latest model in Johnny-Panic-Killers….
The white cot is ready. With a terrible gentleness Miss Milleravage takes the watch
from my wrist, the rings from my fingers, the hairpins from my hair. She begins to
undress me. When I am bare, I am anointed on the temples and robed in sheets virginal
as the first snow. Then, from the four corners of the room and from the door behind me
come five false priests in white surgical gowns and masks whose one life work is to
unseat Johnny Panic from his own throne. They extend me full-length on my back on
the cot. The crown of wire is placed on my head, the wafer of forgetfulness on my
tongue. The masked priests move to their posts and take hold: one of my left leg, one of
my right, one of my right arm, one of my left. One behind my head at the metal box
where I can’t see.
From their cramped niches along the wall, the votaries raise their voices in protest.
They begin the devotional chant:
The only thing to love is Fear itself.
Love of Fear is the beginning of wisdom.
The only thing to love is Fear itself.
May Fear and Fear and Fear be everywhere.
SYLVIA PLATH (U.S. electroshock survivor, writer, and poet), a thinly veiled account
of what electroshock was like for her, “Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams,” Atlantic,
September 1968. In her essay, Plath spoke of herself as “an unsordid collector of dreams
for themselves alone. A lover of dreams for Johnny Panic’s sake, the Maker of them all.”
She committed suicide at the age of 40 in 1963, two years before Ariel, her acclaimed
collection of poems, was published.
See Plath’s entries in 1953 and 1960 above.
1963 — How different the world might be today if only a handful of people had been sent
for psychiatric “treatments,” instead of being tried and sent to jail! Gandhi, Nehru,
Sukarno, Castro, Hitler — and of course many others, for example the “freedom riders”
in the South — have been sentenced to terms in prison. Surely, the social status quo
could have been better preserved by finding each of these men mentally ill and
subjecting them to enough electric shock treatments to quell their aspirations.
THOMAS S. SZASZ (Hungarian-born U.S. psychiatrist), Law, Liberty, and
Psychiatry: An Inquiry into the Social Uses of Mental Health Practices, ch. 13, 1963.
1964 — The average schizophrenic has no motivation for drug intake because he does
not consider himself sick. He also finds out pretty soon that the drugs slow him down or
give him other discomfort and that subjectively he feels better without medication. The
rising readmission rate in our hospitals is probably not due to diminishing effectiveness
of the drug, but to many patients’ failure to take the prescribed amount or to take them
at all. Therefore, maintenance ECT still has its indications as also; by the way,
psychosurgery has in some selected cases.
LOTHAR B. KALINOWSKY (German-born U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), “Electric
Convulsive Therapy after Ten Years of Pharmacotherapy,” American Journal of
Psychiatry, April 1964.
1964 — A person who does not have a memory is not able to perform as an actress. I’m
still able to do things — that is, I’m able to do them in a very limited way as a kind of
hobby. I have to work terribly hard to do it. Recently, I did a public theater appearance. I
had to drive around with the tape on saying the lines over and over and over and over.
Previously, I’d just do a couple of readings… and that would be enough. I don’t have this
quick ability anymore. I don’t like to appeal to emotionalism, but I’m furious about the
whole thing. I mean my life changed radically….
Since the shock treatment [in 1964] I’m missing between eight and fifteen years of
memory and skills, and this includes most of my education. I was a trained classical
pianist…. Well, the piano’s in my house, but I mean it’s mostly just a sentimental
symbol. It just sits there. I don’t have that kind of ability any longer….
I lost people by losing those eight to fifteen years. People come up to me and they
speak to me and they know me and they tell me about things that we’ve done. I don’t
know who they are. I don’t know what they’re talking about although obviously I have
been friendly with them….
[The shock treatment] diminished me…. I am certainly nothing like I was, and my life
is nothing like it would have been.
CONNIE NEIL (Canadian electroshock survivor), testimony at electroshock hearings
before the Toronto’s Board of Health, January 1984, quoted in Phoenix Rising
(Electroshock Supplement), April 1984.
1966 — Perhaps a plausible explanation for the efficacy of shock is that it produces a
slight brain damage and thus erases the most recent neurohistological changes in the
highest brain area, which stores as memories those experiences which precipitated the
psychosis. In other words, as the result of shock treatment the patient completely
forgets the events leading up to his symptoms and thus is put back into a predepression
psychological state. The best-substantiated acts of electroshock therapy are that amnesia
occurs during this period and that when the temporary memory defect based on the
patient’s reversible brain damage is restored, illness is apt to reoccur. The exceptions are
those lucky patients whose external-life situations fortuitously improve after the shock
FRANZ G. ALEXANDER (Hungarian-born U.S. psychoanalyst) and SHELDON T.
SELESNICK (U.S. psychiatrist), The History of Psychiatry, ch. 18, 1966.
Tom Olin / 2002
1996 — In 1966 psychiatrist Samuel Diaz tried to cure me of my innocence with an
eight-week course of combined insulin coma and electroshock at Fair Oaks Hospital in
Summit, New Jersey. Stolen from me was more than innocence. Along with lost
memory, ripped from me was my choice to explore the mystery and depths of my being.
Psychiatry would decree that I was mentally ill and force me to worship their definition
I do not sleep or dream as I once did. Was the wondering, inexplicable side of me
destroyed, or does a strongly conditioned, learned fear prevent me from seeing what I
once could. Almost all who know me now perceive me as a grounded pillar of stability. I
am a successful psychologist with no hint of the “schizophrenia” label that seemingly
justified the imposition of those extreme treatments. Yet I know that I have lost an
important part of myself, a part that I will not give up trying to recapture. And most of
all, I know the importance of fighting and challenging any psychiatric intervention that
attacks the fragile, yet resilient spirit that is the gift of being human.
RONALD BASSMAN (U.S. electroshock survivor, psychologist, and past president of
the National Association for Rights Protection and Advocacy), personal communication,
5 June 2006. As one of the few practicing psychologists known to have undergone
shock, Bassman has played a key role in explaining to his profession and the public what
it’s like being diagnosed as mentally ill, institutionalized and subjected to forced
psychiatric procedures, and how the interests of the so-called mentally ill can be truly
Modern Medicine / 15 February 1975
1966 — Let me describe the most horrible experience of my life. I was injected with a
muscle relaxant, while my mouth was plugged with a rubber tube to bite down on (so
that I wouldn’t bite my tongue), and an oxygen mask covered my face. Dr. Ames Fischer
fitted the pieces of metal to my temples, and then he said in a sterile voice, “Let him feel
it this time!” As the current went through my brain along with the rest of my body, I
wanted to scream, but because of the muscle relaxant, I was paralyzed — I couldn’t even
close my eyes. I remember the next time that I was to have a treatment. I begged and
begged, “Please don’t let me feel it this time!” I had fourteen of these treatments in the
period of four months that I was detained on the fourth floor Acute Treatment Ward in
Langley Porter [Neuropsychiatric Institute in San Francisco].
GARY BLACKBURN (U.S. electroshock survivor), “My Experience with Shock,”
Madness Network News, Spring 1977.
1966 — My parents, horrified [at the conditions at New York’s Bellevue Hospital], pulled
strings with money they didn’t have and had me transferred to Gracie Square Hospital, a
place where rich alcoholics dried out and rich psychotics were zapped at $50 a shock.
Terrified, having seen the price for disobedience (for I had defied the psychiatrists by
not resuming my role), I tried hard now to be “good.” The carpeted floors and pastel
walls showed me one of my choices; the vacant stares and shuffling gaits of the patients
returning each morning from the shock room showed the other. Again the lesson:
conformity or punishment!
JUDI CHAMBERLIN (U.S. psychiatric survivor, human rights activist, and writer),
published in Dorothy E. Smith and Sara J. David, eds., Women Look at Psychiatry,
1975. Since 1971, Chamberlin has been a leading force in the psychiatric survivors
movement. Her On Our Own: Patient-Controlled Alternatives to the Mental Health
System (1978) is the most highly regarded and influential book to have emerged from
the survivors movement.
1966 — The [unmodified electroconvulsive] treatments were continued on a threetimes-
a-week schedule. Gradually there began to be evident improvement in the
behavior of the patients, the appearance of the ward, and the number of patients
volunteering for work. This latter was a result of the ECTs alleviating schizophrenic or
depressive thinking and affect with some. With others it was simply a result of their
dislike or fear of ECT. In either case our objective of motivating them to work was
LLOYD H. COTTER (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), describing his use of
electroshock on 120 male Vietnamese mental patients in a hospital near Bien Hoa in
1966, “Operant Conditioning in a Vietnamese Mental Hospital,” American Journal of
Psychiatry, July 1967. Later, as recounted in the same article, Cotter used a similar
approach with 130 female work-refusers at the same hospital. The electroshock was less
effective with them, he reported: after 20 ECTs only 15 women were working. He told
the remaining women, “If you don’t work, you don’t eat.” Twelve women immediately
agreed to work, and by the end of three days without food, all the rest “volunteered” for
work. Cotter concluded the report on his ECT-centered operant conditioning program
with these words: “It would appear to be most indicated for long-term patients who have
failed to respond to other treatment modalities. The use of effective reinforcements
should not be neglected due to a misguided idea of what constitutes kindness” [editor’s
summary]. Comment: “The significance of the Cotter article is not that one psychiatrist
so ingenuously reported on his use of violence — electroshock and starvation — to force
mental patients to work. That is revealing only about the individual. The significance
lies, rather, in what is revealed about professional standards by the fact that the
psychiatrist’s work resulted not in censure or sanctions, but in publication of his article
in the official journal of his professional association [the American Psychiatric
Association]” (EDWARD M. OPTON JR. [U.S. attorney and psychologist],
“Psychiatric Violence Against Prisoners: When Therapy Is Punishment,” Mississippi
Law Journal, vol. 3, 1974).
1966 — Q. Did you see anybody while you were at Langley Porter, beside yourself, who
was forced to undergo shock treatment?
A. There quite a few young people there — younger than I even; there was a girl of
sixteen, she was getting it; there was a girl who was about my age and her father wanted
her to have shock. She just came in a couple of days before and when they told her she
was going to get shock treatments, that her father wanted her to get them and we want
you to or whatever, she just completely — I don’t know what she did — but she ended up
in seclusion You could see through the bars on the window, it was just this padded room
with mattresses all around. They put her in there for — she was just screaming and
everything. She had a bobby pin in her hair and she took it out and she cut her[self] —
not very deeply, it didn’t help, they gave her shock anyway. But I mean she was one that
really rebelled. I don’t know if she knew what it was before, but she had seen people and
you don’t see people get it, but you see them before and after and you see the difference.
Q. Anybody else attempt to fight back in any way?
A. I don’t think so. You know, you learn to play the game. But sometimes I thought, I
wonder if I got better they’d stop doing it. So I’d say, “Boy, I sure feel good today,” and
they’d say, “Oh, that’s great, they’re helping you so much.” So I thought, well, maybe if I
don’t do any better. [And I’d say,] “God, I feel terrible,” so they go, “That’s okay, the next
one will take care of it.” You can’t win really. I think they’d set up before how many I was
going to get. And after twenty she [the nurse] stopped and said, “Well, you’ve had your
twenty.” So I don’t think it would have mattered if I had done really bad or done really
DOROTHY MOLINARE (pseudonymous electroshock survivor), author interview,
John Friedberg, Shock Treatment Is Not Good for Your Brain, ch. 4, 1976. Molinare
underwent electroshock at Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute in San Francisco in
1966 at the age of 19.
1964-1966 — A clear reference to the use of electric fish to produce shock and cure
psychiatric cases is found in a 16th century Jesuit missionary account of Ethiopia: “The
superstitious Abassines [Ethiopians] believe that it [the electric catfish] is good to expel
Devils out of the human body, and it did torment Spirits no less than men.” I find this
reference especially interesting since during my stay in Ethiopia in 1964-1966, electric
shock therapy was being widely promoted by a psychiatrist there as a new technique.
Modern psychiatry, he said in effect, was coming to Ethiopia to expel the Devil out of the
E. FULLER TORREY (U.S. psychiatrist), The Mind Game: Witchdoctors and
Psychiatrists, ch. 5, 1972. The quotation in the excerpt is from P. Kellaway, “The Part
Played by Electric Fish in the Early History of Bioelectricity and Electrotherapy,”
Bulletin of the History of Medicine, vol. 20, 1946.
1967 — The superintendent of another mental hospital with a very impressive discharge
rate for schizophrenic patients told me recently that he gave all newly admitted
schizophrenics ten to twenty routine electroshocks because if he did not do this, his
nursing staff would not only be unable to cope with the disturbed behavior but above all
would lose faith in their capacity to assist in the curing of patients.
DAVID COOPER (South African-born British psychiatrist), Psychiatry and Anti-
Psychiatry, ch. 6, 1967.
1967 — I was a victim of ECT when I was nineteen years old. I am now forty. The ECT
was given to me against my will…. Before the ECT I was a college student studying art
and a springboard diver in training for the Olympics. After the treatments I tried to
resume these things, but I could not remember people who knew me at school and lost
my nerve for diving. I feel the shock treatment was responsible.
My parents never would have consented to the treatment if they had been informed it
might hurt my memory and damage my brain.
SUZA GAUDINO (U.S. electroshock survivor), letter to the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, 24 January 1988, Docket #82P-0316, Electroconvulsive Therapy
Device, Rockville, Maryland, 1982.
1967 — To explain ECT, I must first confront my shame. So I ask myself: What is the
most shaming image of yourself from the hospital? It is the image I can never see. It is
me on the shock table, writhing from the convulsion, drooling and twitching. That
paralyzed, twitching image: That’s me. There, I have just allowed you to envision my
LAUREL J. HODKIN (U.S. electroshock survivor), on her ECT experience in 1967,
Biological Psychiatry and the Invention of the Asylum in Modern America. Organic
Theories and Somatic Treatment: A History and Cast Study (unpublished dissertation,
Saybrook Graduate School and Research Center, San Francisco), 1999.
1967 — Although these methods [i.e., the various forms of shock treatment] benefited
schizophrenics infinitely more than psychotherapy or other environmental treatment,
they had their disadvantages. In our unit at St Thomas’s, for instance, patients might
become so excited and upset in the early stages of treatment that we could not continue
it under general hospital conditions, and had to send one out of every three on to mental
hospitals. Largactil or thorazine [sic], this French discovery, now allowed us to keep
even the worst cases under sedation while electric shock and other treatments, were
WILLIAM SARGANT (British electroshock psychiatrist), The Unquiet Mind: The
Autobiography of a Physician in Psychological Medicine (with a preface by psychiatrist
D. Ewen Cameron), ch. 21, 1967.
1968 — [Electroconvulsive] treatment is not painful or otherwise unpleasant.
LOTHAR B. KALINOWSKY (German-born U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), “Thirty
Years of Empiricism,” International Journal of Psychiatry, February 1968.
1968 — In 1968 I had 19 shock treatments. I found out later that they were probably
unnecessary and that I had severe thyroid and female hormone deficiencies. Needless to
say the electric shocks didn’t help my hormone deficiencies!
They did wreck my life however! I suffer severe memory loss which has never
returned. It covers 8 to 10 years!
I also have a very deep inability to learn and comprehend things and this has led to
problems with my own self understanding. It also has affected my relations with my own
family and other people too.
DOROTHY OIMETTE (U.S. electroshock survivor), letter to the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, 29 January 1988, Docket #82P-0316, Electroconvulsive Therapy
Device, Rockville, Maryland, 1982.
1968 — When we are concerned with schizophrenic and paranoid psychoses,
[electroconvulsive] treatment must usually be given more intensively, in spite of which,
full freedom from symptoms is not attained. Instead, the symptoms become less marked
at the same time as a general lowering of the mental level occurs.
JAN-OTTO OTTOSSON (Swedish electroshock psychiatrist), “Psychological or
Physiological Theories of ECT,” International Journal of Psychiatry, February 1968.
1969 — A few patients may seem to feel worse after [an ECT] treatment and evidence
more agitation than before. It may simply mean that the depression was far more
intense than suspected. This is not uncommon, so do not lose heart if it happens. The
only answer here is to persist with treatment in accordance with the doctor’s
LEONARD CAMMER (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), advice to relatives of ECT
patients, Up from Depression, ch. 13, 1969.
1969 — As ill luck would have it, the term “electroshock” became a disquieting
misnomer for an excellent and highly beneficial treatment method. More aptly, it should
have been called a “stimulation” procedure. However, the word “shock” attained general
usage through one of those quirks of language application….
I prefer electric-stimulation treatment, which says exactly what it is.
LEONARD CAMMER, Up from Depression, ch. 13, 1969. Comment: “Dr. Leonard
Cammer, one of electric shock treatment’s most outspoken advocates, has tried to allay
public fear concerning its use. He believes the word ‘shock’ scares a lot of people and
calls the procedure ‘electric-stimulation treatment.’ I don’t believe the word ‘shock’ in
this case scares people nearly enough, and propose that this technique be called ‘electric
shock torture’” (JOE KENNEDY ADAMS [U.S. psychologist], “You’re in for the Shock
of Your Life,” published in Sherry Hirsch et al., eds., Madness Network News Reader, p.
1969 — In my department at the Vienna Polyclinic, we use drugs, and use electro-
convulsive treatment. I have signed authorization for lobotomies without having cause
to regret it. In a few cases, I have even carried out transorbital lobotomy. However, I
promise you that the human dignity of our patients is not violated in this way…. What
matters is not a technique or therapeutic approach as such, be it drug treatment or
shock treatment, but the spirit in which it is being carried out.
VIKTOR E. FRANKL (Austrian Holocaust survivor and electroshock psychiatrist who
introduced logotherapy, a method of psychotherapy), “‘Nothing But—’: On
Reductionism and Nihilism,” Encounter, November 1969.
1969 — In more modern and progressive mental hospitals the aides are not allowed to
beat up on the patients. It is necessary for the aide to report that the patient cannot
control his hostility so that the doctor can bang the patient in the head with a shock
JAY HALEY (U.S. psychotherapist), “The Art of Being Schizophrenic,” The Power
Tactics of Jesus Christ and Other Essays, 1969.
1969 — During this period I was undergoing outpatient psychotherapy with Dr. Richard
Bridburg, the Chief of Patient-Staff Services at the Institute of Living [where I had been
electroshocked in 1969]. Once, when I tried to tell him about the enormous problems I
was facing due to my lack of memory (I was going to ask his advice), he became
downright hostile and said that such a thing was impossible. He said that shock
treatments cause memory loss only right after they are administered. In no uncertain
terms, he pompously informed me that anything else I had forgotten was due to normal
forgetting. This is simply not true. In my own case, I lost years, not weeks, of time.
Besides, the difference between normal forgetting and the total erasure caused by
electroshock is like the difference between dunking your big toe in water and being
drowned. I have never met anyone else who has “forgotten” where she went to college.
But I realize that I was lucky. If I had been born ten years earlier, I might have had a
I had frequent nightmares about wandering into a hospital and not being able to find
the exit door, about being burned by electrical wires, and paralyzed by injections of
mind-altering drugs. It took a long, long time for me to accustom myself to the “real”
world again. For many years I felt like there was a hole through the center of my
existence and no one knew of it but me.
JEANNE LINDSAY (U.S. electroshock survivor and school counselor), closing
paragraphs, “My Own Experience,” Madness Network News, Winter 1983-1984.
1942-1969 — Electric convulsive treatment was given to more than 500 children at
Bellevue from 1942 to 1956, and at Creedmoor State Hospital Children’s service from
1956 to 1969. In the 1940s insulin therapy was sometimes combined with electric
LAURETTA BENDER (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), “The Prescription of
Treatment for Children,” published in Silvano Arieti, ed., American Handbook of
Psychiatry, 2nd ed., vol. 5, 1975. Both hospitals named in the excerpt are in New York
See Bender’s entry in 1947 above.
Early 1970s — In the early 1970s, when Nixon was president and Vietnam was the
visible war zone, I was going through some interesting life changes. I had many strange
and intense experiences. I was occasionally euphoric and was sometimes overwhelmed
as I tried to explore and examine the possibilities of my human potential in the fantastic
realities of our existence.
In the course of events I was captured and incarcerated for my “thought crimes.”
Thought crimes because I had broken no law, only spoken out, and acted out in
response to my environment. I was locked up in a psychiatric prison. I was immediately
forcibly injected with powerful mind-numbing and physically debilitating drugs, and
rapidly descended into the typical state of clinically induced depression. I was
repeatedly reminded that I was sick, and was forced to admit to and accept this sudden
Within three weeks, ECT was presented as a way to bring me out of this depression —
a condition that would be necessary before I could be released from the “hospital.”
The only information I remember being told about was that the proposed treatment,
ECT, was electroconvulsive treatment, and that it was not shock treatment.
So, I was persuaded to submit to the treatments. During the treatments I remember
feeling very confused and disoriented, and especially sensing a loss of all memory of my
past. I hoped that each new treatment would kill me so I would not have to endure any
[The hospital] records indicate I received a series of 15 electroconvulsive treatments.
Then, fortunately, my financial resources became exhausted. “Coincidentally,” I was
pronounced well enough to be released. I was helped out of bed, given a three-day
supply of pills, a prescription for more pills and helped out the door and dumped into a
strange city — broke and broken.
In time, with the help and support of family and friends, I was able to reconstruct
parts of my past.
There is no way of knowing what is missing from my memory. I do know I felt my
spirit had been broken, that I no longer had skills and abilities I once enjoyed, and I
know that it has taken many years to restore my spontaneity, creativity, and
GEORGE EBERT (U.S. electroshock survivor and founder and project coordinator of
The Alliance, Syracuse), testimony at a hearing on ECT before the New York Assembly
Standing Committee on Mental Health, Mental Retardation, and Developmental
Disabilities, New York City, 18 May 2001. For more than 25 years Ebert has played a
vital role in the campaign against electroshock and other psychiatric abuses.
1970? — The most terrible and damaging result of the [electroshock] treatment was that
I lost all memories of the early childhood of my six children. I returned home and didn’t
even know them. I was no longer the same mother because my memories were gone.
JEANNE CLAYTOR (U.S. electroshock survivor), quoted in Mark Smith, “Nightmare
from ‘60s Haunts Mental Patients of ‘90s,” Houston Chronicle, 8 March 1992. Claytor,
who was 66 in 1992, said that because of the severe memory loss from ECT she had to
relearn basic arithmetic and was unable to navigate her native Amarillo, Texas, without
1970 — I received over 20 ECTs when I was 17 years old…. I was told the memories
would come back in 6 weeks. I was told the shock treatments were no more powerful
than the batteries in a flashlight. This was 30 years ago.
I lost 95% of all my memories before the treatment. They never came back. I went
back to high school. I did not remember my fellow students. I could not find my classes.
It was awful. To this day I look at the school year books hoping some of the pictures will
spark a memory. I used to play the violin. I had won 2nd place in duets in the city of
Cleveland. (The only reason I know this is because I have the medal in my drawer.) I
could not remember how to play my violin after the first series of treatments. I was
devastated…. My doctor kept saying that one more series would make me well….
I have trouble with my memory today. I have been told I have permanent brain
damage due to the ECT treatment. My IQ was 120 before treatments and it is not
anywhere near that now. I have trouble just trying to cook a meal. I do not work. I make
lists so that I can try to remember what I need to do.
ECTs changed my life forever — and not for the better. I wish no one would be given
SUE ANN KULCSAR (U.S. electroshock survivor), letter to the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, 9 November 2000, Docket #82P-0316, Electroconvulsive Therapy
Device, Rockville, Maryland, 1982.
1970 — The confusion, disorientation and amnesia… are desirable effects of the
JOSEPH PERLSON (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), letter to Playboy, August 1970,
quoted in Edward M. Opton Jr. and Alan W. Scheflin, The Mind Manipulators, ch. 9,
1978. Perlson reported his having administered ECT more than 50,000 times.
1970 — When I was nine, my mother’s mind was murdered by an electroshock
brainwashing course which psychiatry often used against unhappily married women
whose husbands abused them, a real-life “Stepford wife” scenario. She became a total
stranger: passive, emotionally distant and incapable of initiating or sustaining a
conversation. Shortly afterwards, this mother of four young boys blew her brains out
with my father’s pistol. I didn’t understand why she did it until 1970, when I myself, at
the age of 15, was shocked six times for the same reason: I was suffering as a victim of
aggravated domestic assault. Nothing could have prepared me for the horror and
devastation I experienced as a result. Suddenly I was a refugee in my own mind, a
hollow-eyed shadow of my former self, haunting a broken, smoldering landscape that
used to be my life. A chasm opened up in my life, the boundary between before and
after. Whoever I was before, that child died, and ever since I’ve been trying to make a
life for myself while dragging around a lifeless child-corpse inside me, as if my Siamese
twin had died. Now I understand why my mother killed herself and I don’t blame her. I
now know there is a fate worse than death: being half alive.
RICH WINKEL (U.S. electroshock survivor and computer programmer), personal
communication, 21 September 2005. Winkel was electroshocked at St. Vincent’s
Hospital in St. Louis.
1971 — They put me through a series of shock treatments every time I am admitted to
Austin State Hospital [Texas] and every time I get stupider and stupider.
ANONYMOUS (U.S. electroshock survivor), quoted in Doug Cameron, How to Survive
Being Committed to a Mental Hospital, ch. 18, 1979.
1971 — Of course “Behaviorism works.” So does torture. Give me a no-nonsense, down-
to-earth behaviorist, a few drugs, and simple electrical appliances, and in six months I
will have him reciting the Athanasian Creed in public.
W. H. AUDEN (English poet), “Behaviorism,” A Certain World: A Commonplace
1971 — As difficult as it may be for the reader to believe, I was now being shocked on the
basis that I was not eating meat….
[My parents and the psychiatrist] were bound and determined to get me to stop
denying myself meat. Evidently, I was supposed to forget about being a vegetarian and,
over eighteen shock treatments, one would presume I would. I, after all, forgot nearly
everything else, including how to spell correctly, my wife’s name, my complete
childhood, my college, my high school, all the books I ever read; you name it, I forgot it.
With a little more effort, I could have become completely illiterate….
Vegetarianism was… a religious practice of mine…. There is supposed to be some sort
of right in this country about religious freedom and the right to practice according to
one’s own beliefs, I guess, for that amount of time, everyone must have forgotten about
it, at least while I was being shocked.
DOUG CAMERON (U.S. electroshock survivor and teacher), How to Survive Being
Committed to a Mental Hospital, ch. 17, 1979. Cameron underwent a series of 18
electroshocks at Terrell State Hospital (Terrell, Texas). The number of ECTs for a
standard series on his ward was 15 but three were added on, as related in ch. 25 of his
book, because he persisted in his vegetarianism, “a practice most sacred to me.” These
last sessions were particularly hard for Cameron. The inability to breathe “worsened a
hundredfold” during these electroshocks and during the last one he had the “feeling of
almost dying of asphyxiation.” He then realized the shocking would continue until he
resumed eating meat. So he did: “I am only a man. I could only take so much” [editor’s
See Doug Cameron’s entry in 1993 below.
1971 — Waiting for shock treatments was in many ways like waiting for execution. Each
time we were put to sleep and shocked, it was like dying. In a kind of way, I was always
surprised to wake up afterward and find that I was still alive and that it was all over, at
least for another day and a half.
DOUG CAMERON, How to Survive Being Committed to a Mental Hospital, ch. 18,
1971 — Although most clinicians consider ECT’s effect on mental functions reversible,
we know of no systematic, long-term studies that demonstrate this conclusively, and
almost every experienced clinician knows of a number of patients whose memory
functions have in some measure remained impaired indefinitely.
THOMAS P. DETRE and HENRY G. JARECKI (U.S. psychiatrists), Modern
Psychiatric Treatment, p. 642, 1971. Compare: Memory loss “is often distressing to the
patient and may continue to some degree for several weeks or a few months following
the termination of [ECT] treatment. Full return of memory finally occurs”
(LAWRENCE C. KOLB [U.S. psychiatrist and past president of the American
Psychiatric Association], Modern Clinical Psychiatry, 8th ed., p. 642, 1973).
1971 — I was confined in a cold lonely room filled with fear and terror, wondering if I
should fight the scheduled electroconvulsive “treatment” or give in to a hell that would
rob me of part of my life. The first day I found out the hard way that fighting doesn’t
work. I was huddled in my bed holding tight to the little will power I had left. I heard the
clicking of heels coming down the hallway. I thought to myself, “Maybe it will be
someone else today,” although deep inside, I wished that it wouldn’t have to be anyone.
But it’s not someone else; it’s me they have come for!
As I was being taken to what the victims called the “Shock Shop,” I knew there was no
way out. I wondered what I had done to deserve this. I thought this was what it must feel
like to walk down death row, except that I had committed no crime.
Later, I awoke in a daze, head aching, with patches of memory lost. Even knowing
that by cooperating there would be fewer trips to the Shock Shop, I fought every
treatment. At times I would try to hide, but the nightmare continued.
This all happened in a Houston hospital when I was in 24. There were three series of
electroshock, 28 ECTs in all. And when it was all over, I was not able to remember my
own child’s name. Some of the lost memories returned, but there were others that never
did. I had to learn many things all over again; it took me 20 years to partially catch up to
where I thought I had been before.
Sometime, after discharge, I started having small seizures that have become more
severe. Judging by older people with similar experiences, I can expect increasingly
worse seizures. The reality is that my brain was permanently damaged during ECT. The
major seizures, which last for 5 to 10 minutes, cause my body and mind to remember
and feel just as they did during the electroshocks.
Are we still living in the Stone Age? Isn’t this like the ancients who drilled holes in
their neighbor’s skull to let out evil spirits? What has happened to the doctor’s creed,
“First, do no harm?”
The pain of ECT is a never-ending pain. It has cost me my health, my memory, my
child, my then husband, my chances of better employment, and portions of my
education. It will continue until I take my last breath, but in the meantime, I use my
every breath to work for the prohibition of all electroshock. But if this can’t be done,
every psychiatrist should be required to have printed across his forehead a warning that
states: “ELECTROCONVULSIVE THERAPY IS DANGEROUS TO YOUR HEALTH AND
WILL CAUSE PERMANENT BRAIN DAMAGE.”
DIANN’A LOPER (U.S. electroshock survivor and legislative advocate), personal
communication, 27 September 2005.
See Doug Cameron’s entry in 1993 below.
1971 — Electro-shock treatment was administered 433 times last year at the California
Medical Facility in Vacaville.
Dr. L. J. Pope, superintendent of the correctional institution [prison], said the
disputed therapy was not given as often in 1971 as in former years. It was supplanted by
NORMAN MELNICK (U.S. journalist), “Shock Therapy at Vacaville,” San Francisco
Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, 30 January 1972.
1971 — Based on force and fraud, and justified by “medical necessity,” the prime
purpose of psychiatric treatments — whether utilizing drugs, electricity, surgery or
confinement, especially if imposed on unconsenting clients — is to authenticate the
subject as a “patient,” the psychiatrist as a “doctor,” and the intervention as a form of
“treatment.” The cost of this fictionalization runs high: it requires the sacrifice of the
patient as a person; of the psychiatrist as a critical thinker and moral agent; and of the
legal system as a protector of the citizen from the abuse of state power.
THOMAS S. SZASZ (Hungarian-born U.S. psychiatrist), “From the Slaughterhouse to
the Madhouse,” Psychotherapy, Theory, Research and Practice, Spring 1971.
Ward Roberts / 1971
Thomas S. Szasz
1971 — Faculty in some medical centers teach that even skillfully administered ECT
causes permanent, measurable brain damage, and that this is reason enough to avoid it.
We have never been able to track down any evidence for such a conclusion: in some
cases it comes down to an article of faith that “it just must” cause damage.
MORTON R. WEINSTEIN and AMES FISCHER (U.S. electroshock psychiatrists),
“Combined Treatment with ECT and Antipsychotic Drugs in Schizophrenia,” Diseases of
the Nervous System, December 1971.
See Peter Sterling’s entry in 2001 below.
1971 — I have suffered loss of jobs, family or friends’ respect as a result of ECT
treatments [in 1971]. I was administered 26 treatments with the ECT device for
endocrine glands malfunction “nervous breakdown”. Five years later I realized I was
brain damaged because of confused physiological functioning and continual depression
on the job and in school (college). I am now 38 years old — and 3/4 of every day since
those 26 ECT treatments I am bitter because I no longer feel vital and fit for life.
KAREN WHITEHEAD (U.S. electroshock survivor), letter to the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, 27 January 1988, Docket #82P-0316, Electroconvulsive Therapy
Device, Rockville, Maryland, 1982.
1972 — Soon after becoming the Democratic Party’s nominee for vice president in 1972,
media reports disclosed that Missouri Senator Thomas F. Eagleton had undergone ECT
at Barnes Hospital (St. Louis) and the Mayo Clinic (Rochester, Minnesota) during 1960
and 1966 respectively. Initially, he had the support of the Democratic presidential
nominee, South Dakota Senator GEORGE S. McGOVERN, who on hearing the news
of his running mate’s psychiatric history famously said, “I am 1,000 percent for Tom
Eagleton, and I have no intention of dropping him from the ticket.” But 3 days later,
after consulting with psychiatrist Karl A. Menninger and others, McGovern changed his
mind and forced Eagleton off the ticket.
1972 — There is an inherent wisdom in the brain as an organ of the body subject to
wearing out. When it does, we have a depression. A depressed man or woman is like a
car that can’t turn the motor over with a weak battery. It needs a recharge.
[According to the reporter, Dr. Cammer said that he was grateful to Sen. Thomas
Eagleton for the publicity he gave to the value of ECT.] After the story appeared, I got
calls from six professional people — two of them doctors — who had been denying
They said, “If it was good enough for Eagleton, it’s good enough for me.” One man
was calling on behalf of his wife, who had been under treatment with drugs, without
success, for months.
When she finally came in for treatments and began to improve, she said to her
husband, “You SOB, why didn’t you tell me what to do before?”
A depressed person is grateful when someone takes over, because he can’t deal with
anguish himself. The last thing a friend or relative should say to someone in depression
is, “You can snap out of it if you try.” Would you say that to someone paralyzed by a
LEONARD CAMMER (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), quoted in Eloise Dungan,
“Depression Is Needless,” San Francisco Sunday Examiner & Chronicle, 12 November
1972 — Carmen: I got scared of the shock treatments. It’s a very scary feeling, especially
when you feel like the metal things of the electricity goes through you — it’s like a
hammer hitting your head. I was afraid of the third one.
Phyllis: Did you say you didn’t want it?
Carmen: Oh, I fought against it. But they gave it to me by force.
Phyllis: Who signed for it?
Carmen: My husband did. He said the doctor said, “She’s not doing any good so let’s
try shock treatments.”
PHYLLIS CHESLER (U.S. psychotherapist and writer), Women & Madness, ch. 8
(“Third World Women”), 1972.
1972 — I was hired by Gladman Hospital (Oakland) in 1970 as a night nurse in spite of
my open objection to electroshock. My tenure was for 2 and one-half years….
[One night in December of 1972], I found patient Zappane sitting in a chair, staring
into space. He was a man in his late sixties, and I believe from his accent that he was an
Italian immigrant. The patient of Doctor Adler would be receiving his very first
electroshock treatment. I talked to him as I checked his blood pressure. He remained
silent as I explained the procedure. As I was about to leave, he spoke: “I’m afraid. I don’t
want it. I don’t want the shock treatment. I’ll die from it. I don’t want to die. I’m afraid.
Will they know where to send my body? Will they know where to send my clothes? This
is the worst Christmas I ever had.”
I advised him to speak to his doctor and let him know of his fears and that he didn’t
want the treatment. I wrote his conversation with me in the nurse’s observations and
charted his vital signs. The EST nurse came to pick up the charts of those that would
receive EST that day. I told her that patient Zappane was unusually frightened and
believed that he would die from the treatment. She smiled and walked off with the
charts. I closed the rest of my charts and signed out for the day.
That night I returned to my usual unit. Shortly after coming on duty I learned from a
nurse on Station 1 that patient Zappane had died. I went to Station 1 to see if I could find
his chart. It was still there. I read through his medical history and found that he had had
a series of strokes and it was known that he had brain lesions (damaged tissue) from his
That morning I questioned several members of the day staff. Yes, they told me, he
fought, he screamed. Yes, he had to be carried to the EST room. He never recovered
from the convulsion and the resuscitating equipment didn’t function. He was taken by
ambulance to Highland General Hospital, but he was dead in the EST room. We learned
several days later that his autopsy determined that his death was caused by a massive
cerebral hemorrhage from a “blown” lesion.
I was told by hospital administration that sometimes these things happen and that I
should not feel bad about it. After all, I was not responsible for the man’s death. And
even though it was very risky sending a man in his physiological condition to receive
EST, they felt it was worth the risk. After all, he was a depressive and could have
committed suicide. And he had signed the consent form when he was admitted.
Patient Zappane did not live to see Christmas, and some of us called it murder.
SUSANNE A. CHRISTOU (U.S. nurse), “Some of Us Called It Murder,” Madness
Network News, Summer 1983.
1972 — Today ECT is a relatively harmless treatment, not significantly more distasteful
than having a tooth filled under Novocain, though it is usually done in a hospital.
DAVID ELKIND and J. HERBERT HAMSHER (U.S. psychologists), “The Anatomy
of Melancholy,” Saturday Review, 30 September 1972.
1972 — One of my first assignments as a psychoanalyst-in-training in 1972 was to visit a
mental hospital in Toronto. I spoke Spanish so I was asked to talk with a young South
American who was about to receive ECT. He was terrified, and begged me to intervene
on his behalf. Knowing nothing about ECT but believing his terror, I went to see the
psychiatrist in charge. He was from Iran, and since my familial background is Central
Asian and being a professor of Sanskrit at the University of Toronto at the time, we were
able to converse easily. I told him about the man. He sighed and said, “Yes, most
patients scheduled for ECT are terrified, and for good reason — that’s why it is used as
punishment.” “What?” I asked in amazement, since I had never imagined any “medical”
treatment doubling as punishment. He sighed again. “Knowing this,” I asked, “how can
you work here?” He said he had no other choice. But there is always a choice. He knew
what he was doing and he could have chosen not to do it. He could have walked away.
Even better: he could have fought it. I resolved then and there never to have anything to
do with this method of psychiatric terrorism or with the people who administer it. In the
years since, having come to know many people who have been given ECT and to know
about many others who give it to them, I have had no reason to change my mind. I am
categorically opposed to the use of ECT in any way whatever.
JEFFREY MOUSSAIEFF MASSON (U.S. psychoanalyst, past director of the Freud
Archives, and writer), personal communication, 19 January 2006.
1972 — Memory is usually fully restored by 1 or 2 months after ECT. Much research has
been done over the past 35 years to investigate the possibility of permanent memory
changes occurring with ECT. Research now suggests that such changes do not occur,
regardless of the number of treatments given.
NATIONAL INSTITUTE OF MENTAL HEALTH, Facts About Electroshock
Therapy (pamphlet, 9470-547), 1972.
1972 — I was treated with electro-convulsive therapy in 1972, aged 37, when I became
troubled and troubling after attending a 5-day experiential course on group dynamics.
Our family doctor made an appointment for me to be assessed at a psychiatric hospital
in York, which is not far from Leeds in northern England where I now live.
The psychiatrist diagnosed schizophrenia and told my husband that he needed
permission to treat me with ECT if drug treatment did not help. After five days on the
neuroleptic Haldol, I was treated with ECT seven times. After being released from
hospital, I felt like an empty shell and gradually slipped into a depressed state. After
some painfully numbed weeks in the summer feeling as if I was behind a plate glass
window, cut off from everything, I went back to hospital.
On readmission I said that I did not want to be treated with ECT but despite that,
three weeks later, when I was beginning to feel myself again, the psychiatrist, on finding
me crying, pressured me into signing consent for more ECT. I was treated 8 times with
ECT in the next three weeks, and I left hospital with prescriptions for the neuroleptic
Stelazine and the antidepressant Prothiaden. I took these and some other drugs
psychiatrists prescribed for me in ever smaller doses till 1975 when I stopped taking
them altogether and returned to teaching. Since then (even though I had another
‘psychotic’ episode in 1978), I’ve done fine without them, which no doubt would surprise
the psychiatrist who had told me I would need to take them indefinitely.
Once home, after the second hospitalization, I could not settle into doing anything
and my husband got someone to help in the house two mornings a week so I would not
be alone so much. I could not remember where some things were kept, particularly my
sewing things. I had also forgotten names of plants in the garden, and sometimes did
not recognise people I had known. I felt fragile and confused. There was a little slow
improvement during the next 2 years.
Fortunately, in 1974 my husband came across a process, Re-evaluation Counselling
(co-counselling), which involves two people agreeing to take equal turns talking and
listening to each other without interruption, and allowing and encouraging the natural
recovery that comes from tears, laughter and other safe ways of releasing feelings. Over
the next months he and I did this for many hours. It was immensely helpful then, and I
still find it useful to exchange time regularly with people who practise this way of
listening and talking. With this approach I began to gain confidence in myself, and some
memories from around the time of the ECT came back to me faintly. I am left with
difficulty in concentrating (taking notes helps), and in recognising faces of people I meet
only rarely. To help myself I now concentrate on linking aspects of their appearance to
their name, which I repeat silently to myself.
Since 1974, I have spoken openly and sometimes publicly about my experience of
ECT when it has seemed appropriate, but keeping anything I say brief. I joined a group
called ECT Anonymous (all of whose members have had ECT), have taken part in
demonstrations against ECT and am now contact person for ECT Anonymous
(email@example.com). I have also made formal written comments on a draft mental
health bill at each stage of its progress, particularly on sections referring to ECT. I talk to
people about the continuing use of ECT in Britain and try to make them aware of its
risks. I have led workshops on ECT for people training as social workers for mental
As contact person for ECT Anonymous, I receive phone calls from people who need to
talk about ECT they have had, or might be considering. I am also trying to set up a local
support group in Leeds for people who might want to share ways to manage memory
problems resulting from ECT, or who are trying to understand ECT and come to terms
with the effects it has had on them.
UNA PARKER (English electroshock survivor, retired teacher, and activist), personal
communication, 20 December 2005.
1972 — Psychiatrists may insist that ECT is safe, but they only administer the
treatments. The patients know better….
In 1972 I received 19 shock treatments because I was depressed. Without going into
details, I can say that my life has been altered because of them and there isn’t a day that
goes by that I’m not aware of it…. I am convinced that electroshock treatment causes
BARBARA RICHER (U.S. electroshock survivor), letter to the U.S. Food and Drug
Administration, 9 February 1988, Docket #82P-0316, Electroconvulsive Therapy
Device, Rockville, Maryland, 1982.
1972 — Q. Was your art work affected [by the shock treatments]?
A. I couldn’t remember how to do art. I’d been doing it all my life, especially all the
time I was in school. I didn’t do art all the time I was there [in the hospital] — they
brought me to the point where, you know, the whole time I was there I made a belt. Here
I was, working with sculptures and plastics and the technology of molds and plastics and
wood and I made a belt!…
If Michelangelo were around today, you know, they would have given him shock
treatments. One day he can paint the Sistine chapel, the next day he can make a belt. If
ALAN ROGERS (pseudonymous electroshock survivor), author interview, John
Friedberg, Shock Treatment Is Not Good for Your Brain, ch. 7, 1976. Rogers underwent
electroshock at the Pennsylvania Hospital Institute in Philadelphia in 1972 in his early
1972 — The therapeutic aim is in every case to give the minimum number of fits which
will produce the desired result. In elderly people and those suffering from
arteriosclerosis these memory disturbances are likely to be of more noticeable degree
and longer duration than in young people, and one should be particularly careful in their
case. One should also be cautious with the man who uses a highly trained memory in the
exercise of his profession.
WILLIAM SARGANT and ELIOT SLATER (British electroshock psychiatrists), An
Introduction to Physical Methods of Treatment in Psychiatry, 5th ed., ch. 2, 1972.
1972 — Finding that the patient has insurance seemed like the most common indication
for giving electroshock.
DAVID S. VISCOTT (U.S. psychiatrist), The Making of a Psychiatrist, ch. 26, 1972.
1973 — After being at Brockville Psychiatric Hospital [Brockville, Ontario] for three
months, Dr. Louis Sipos told me he was going to give me electroshock therapy. I asked
Dr. Sipos what that was. He told me they would put electricity through my brain. I was
frightened as he told me that and I answered Dr. Louis, “hey, if you put electricity
through my brain, it will fry my brain like an egg and scramble it.” Dr. Louis said
electroshock therapy was safe, and I protested with him and said I did not want
electroshock. He told me he was going to give me ECT and that was that.
So on the morning of my electroshock therapy, apparently a peer on my ward told me
many years later as I forgot this part in my memory, as the staff tried to bring me down
the hallway to the electroshock room, I yelled and screamed as loud as I could, I bit the
staff and kicked them as I did not want to go to the ECT room. I yelled for someone to
help me and not let me go into the ECT room, but no one came to my rescue, no one
Eventually the staff forced me into the ECT room. This I do remember, however. The
room had white walls and next to the bed there was steel box with wires coming out of it.
I was told to lay on my back while a nurse gave me a needle in my arm. I was looking
around the room and wanted out, I wanted to escape. I yelled to the staff I did not want
ECT. No one listened to me. I was frightened as I looked around the room and at the
staff. It was a traumatizing experience for me that still haunts me to this day. A rubber
band was wrapped around my forehead and a rubber mallet put between my teeth. Then
the psychiatrist turned on the shock machine and zapped me with electricity through my
SUE CLARK (Canadian electroshock survivor and anti-ECT activist), presented as
written testimony at public hearings on electroshock, Toronto, 9 April 2005,
http://capa.oise.utoronto.ca/personal.html. Clark underwent 5 electroshocks in 1973 at
the age of 18.
1973 — I came home from the office after that first day back feeling panicky. I didn’t
know where to turn. I didn’t know what to do. I was terrified. I’ve never been a crying
person, but all my beloved knowledge, everything I had learned in my field during
twenty years or more, was gone. I’d lost everything that professionals take for granted.
I’d lost my experience, my knowing. But it was worse than that. I felt that I’d lost my
self. I fell on the bed and cried and cried and cried.
MARILYN RICE (U.S. electroshock survivor, government economist, and founder of
the Committee for Truth in Psychiatry, 1923-1992), describing her return to work
following a series of 8 electroshocks administered to her by psychiatrist John E. Nardini
at the Psychiatric Institute of Washington (D.C.), quoted in Berton Roueché, “Annals of
Medicine: As Empty as Eve,” New Yorker, 9 September 1974. In the article, Roueché
identified Rice pseudonymously as Natalie Parker; he named neither Nardini nor the
hospital). Rice’s six-page account of her experience with electroshock, titled “The Rice
Papers,” was published in Leonard Roy Frank’s History of Shock Treatment, 1978.
After ECT, she worked briefly and then retired on disability. Her organization, whose
purpose is to establish the right of ECT candidates to truthful information about ECT,
eventually attained a membership of more than 500 electroshock survivors. An expert
researcher, she was a dedicated and outspoken opponent of electroshock administered
without genuine informed consent.
1973 — Even today, the fantasy persists of being required to expose the body, of being
attacked, wiped out, obliterated, of dying from electrocution, and of suffering
permanent memory loss or impaired intellectual functioning. Therefore, a most
important aspect of preparing a patient for therapy is to correct his/her fantasies in
order to reduce anxiety, and in some cases, even get them to willingly accept treatment.
JAMES STRAIN (U.S. electroshock psychiatrist), “ECT: A Classic Approach Takes
New Forms,” Psychiatry, 1973.
George Bjorgen / Minneapolis Star
1973 — Psychiatry is the New Priesthood. Now, instead of stretching heretics on the
rack, they are plugging people into the wall socket for shock “therapy.”
MICHAEL WHITFIELD (Los Angeles), letter to National Observer, 16 June 1973.
1974 — The day after I was discharged, my hospital roommate, Ruth, escaped and
jumped from the University of Texas tower. She died on impact — a heap of broken
bones to go with her broken spirit. Only three days before she had told me that she was
tired of walking around like a zombie. She blamed this zombiness on a series of shock
treatments she had recently received.
JIMMIE BREWER (U.S. psychiatric survivor), quoted in “NAPA News,” Madness
Network News, June 1974.
1974 — London. For two years, patients in a mental hospital in the north of England
were given electric shock treatments that — unknown to anyone — did not work.
This bizarre story is recounted in an article in the current issue of World Medicine, a
magazine for doctors published here every two weeks. And its author, a doctor involved
in the treatment with the nonworking machine, suggests the experience raises a further
question whether electric shock treatment — “electrical convulsive therapy,” and a
controversial treatment anyhow — really does patients any good. For, he says, the
patients seemed to benefit as much from being put to sleep in preparation for the shock
treatment — with anesthetics — as other patients do from the shock treatment itself….
“All the patients had been getting for two years,” the doctor concludes, “was
thiopentone and a shot of scoline (anesthetic to put them to sleep) — and no one had
RAYMOND R. COFFEY (U.S. journalist), “Hospital Shocked by Finding No Sock in
Its Shock Machine,” Chicago Daily News, 20 September 1974.
1974 — and you will learn to forget
you will forget your pain
you will forget your anger
you will forget to rebel
you will forget the confusion and the chaos of being lost inside
you will forget the journey that you were on
you will forget where you started and you will forget your
you will forget that you had a problem — a very big problem of
trying to find yourself in a world where very little space has
been made for your inner journey
and you will learn to fit in
you will learn to keep the lid on
you will learn to control the intensity of your feelings
you will learn to accept the box you belong in
you will learn to accept the rigid confines of what “they”
you will learn that to try to break out of that box is to leave
yourself vulnerable to currents of electricity surging through your brain.
MICKY DUXBURY, opening stanzas, “In Front of Langley Porter,” 3 July 1974,
published in Leonard Roy Frank, ed., The History of Shock Treatment, 1978. Duxbury
read her poem at San Francisco’s Langley Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute during a
Network Against Psychiatric Assault demonstration protesting the institute’s use of
electroshock on unwilling and misinformed persons.
1974 — The after-effects resulting from aspirin exceed the after-effects of ECT.
LEON EPSTEIN (U.S. psychiatrist), quoted in C. Jacobson, “Questions Raised on
Electroshock Treatment,” Synopse (University of California Medical School, San
Francisco), 17 May 1974. At the time, Epstein was acting medical director of Langley
Porter Neuropsychiatric Institute.
1974 — The Network Against Psychiatric Assault (NAPA) was founded in San Francisco
in 1974 to oppose all forms of psychiatric abuse. The group focused on the injustice and
inhumanity of such practices of involuntary commitment, forced drugging, electroshock,
and psychosurgery. By conducting educational forums and seminars, publishing
Madness Network News (a journal critiquing mainstream psychiatry), and prompting
media attention, NAPA helped give voice to an emerging psychiatric survivors
movement. To lend immediacy and import to these educational efforts, whenever
feasible NAPA engaged in political activism.