Mind

Terrifying Electric Shock Treatment

Neuroskeptic iconNeuroskepticBy NeuroskepticApr 11, 2010 6:30 PM

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Frankenstein op saved me from suicide!!!

That's the front page headline on today's News of The World, a popular British Sunday tabloid which would probably be the worst newspaper in most other countries, but which by British standards is only slightly below average.

TV actress Bev Callard tells how she suffered an episode of severe clinical depression, and was given ECT or as the News put it "terrifying electric shock treatment" which "plunged her into a scene of horror beyond anything TV scriptwriters could have imagined." Although it's never made clear what the horror was: according to Callard her twelve sessions of shock therapy was the only thing which worked to help lift her out of her suicidal state and, as the headline says, it may even have saved her life.

She was worried about the possible side effects, including memory problems, and describes experiencing difficulty learning her lines initially, but she says, she always managed to do so successfully.

The print version includes some sensible comments from a doctor who points out that ECT is effective as a last resort in cases of depression that don't respond to drugs alone. He also comments that "Bev is so brave to talk about this".

She is, but she shouldn't have to be: talking about depression shouldn't be a matter of being brave, any more than talking about any other illness. The reason it takes courage is that unlike with other diseases, admitting to suffering from a mental illness is liable to land you on the front page of the papers.

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