[N.B. In the interests of fair reporting, it is to be noted that the photographer has been personally involved with the organisers of this protest. The coverage provided is intended to represent a factual account of what occurred.]
Psychiatric watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) was joined by human rights supporters in Birmingham today, amid industrial action from public sector workers across Britain. According to CCHR, electroconvulsive therapy, also known as "electroshock treatment" or simply "electric shock," is a barbaric and inhumane way to treat mental illness and should be banned. Their protest was planned to coincide with the first national forum of the Electroconvulsive Therapy Accreditation Service (ECTAS), which was launched in 2003 to assure and improve the quality of the treatment's administration in Britain.
But CCHR said that ECTAS, which is an initiative of the Royal College of Psychiatrists' College Centre for Quality Improvement (CCQI), is a way to justify the continued use of ECT, which its placards likened to torture at today's protest. In addition to CCHR there are others calling for the treatment to be banned, including clinical psychologist Dr Lucy Johnstone, and a study by the Mental Health Foundation in London says that ECT appears to affect patients in much the same way as any brain injury.
"Shock damages the brain," they say, "causing memory loss and disorientation that creates an illusion that problems are gone, and euphoria, which is a frequently observed result of brain injury."
During the protest, a number of passers-by said they had experienced ECT themselves, using various negative adjectives to describe the treatment. A young man named Elliot offered to be interviewed on video by one of the protesters, about his own ECT story, while on the other hand, some members of the public could be heard asking, "What's ECT?" In response, protesters said that even patients themselves are not always told about the dangers of the treatment, preventing them from making an informed decision about receiving it, which they say adds to public distrust of the mental health profession.