Electroconvulsive Treatment



Brief outline: Carys’ daughter was given ECT when she was 19 sometime after she had been diagnosed with schizophrenia. Carys felt that ECT did her no good but has seen it help other people. She is still struggling to get good support for her daughter 21 years later.

Background: Carys works for a charity which represents carers, has three children, is married and describes herself White British.

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One night when her daughter was 19, Carys’s daughter came into the bedroom saying that there were snakes in her room. Eventually after a series of events a psychiatrist became involved and she ended up being admitted to hospital under a section of the Mental Health Act. During her first admission to hospital her daughter refused to have anything to do with Carys, something that she now understands happens frequently.

Carys has lost count of the amount of times that her daughter was sectioned and gave up her job to look after her daughter. Carys thinks that a couple of years after she was ill, she had ECT. She was not consulted but was just told by her daughter ‘I don’t know what they’ve done but I think I’ve had some sort of electric shock’ – so Carys assumed that she had had an accident. She talked to the nurse in charge and was told that she had had ECT treatment but she didn’t know what this was. Her daughter had a series of ECT treatments and Carys saw no improvement and no difference in her well-being. Her daughter ‘loathed it with a passion’, was very frightened and had headaches - which she was then treated for. On the 13th session the equipment broke down so they took her to another hospital and gave her her final treatment. Carys had gone to the hospital to be with her, without realising she had left. By this time Carys was angry, and felt that ECT was like ‘another way of hurting her’. She was told it would help but didn’t ever know what it was supposed to achieve. Carys threatened the hospital with a court order but found they were stopping ECT in any case. She says her daughter has an ‘exceptional memory’ and that she talks about ‘having her brain fried’. Carys says that she says things like ‘No wonder I’m still ill, they’ve fried my brain’.

Her daughter has been on many different medications over the years and Carys felt that it was only on Clozapine that there was any improvement. Her daughter spent years going in and out of prison, secure units and inpatient units. She spent a year in a London hospital where Carys says they got her ‘reasonably stable’. She spent another year in a local psychiatric hospital and then a residential unit that Carys thought was only ‘like a posh prison’. In the end her daughter was moved 15 times in 10 years. 

Carys felt that family members and carers have no choice in the care of the person they care for. She felt the only time services were interested in her was when they wanted her daughter to come home. However now she thinks that some of the “old ways” have changed. Looking towards the future she doesn’t know where to go from here because of the lack of support for the right type of accommodation. She wants support for supported accommodation.

Carys can’t begin to express the depth of her anger. She would like somebody to be answerable and nobody ever will.


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