Electroconvulsive Treatment

Mandie

Female
Age at interview: 39

Brief outline: Mandie became severely depressed and found that anti-depressant medication did not work for her. She felt unsupported by the NHS and had a long wait for talking therapy. Mandie considered having ECT when nothing was working, but she decided against it.

Background: Mandie is married, works as a business coach, has two children and described her ethnic background as White British.

Audio & video

Mandie said that things in her life felt that they were going well. She had a daughter in December 2003, had just moved into a new house and her husband had a good job so she said that things were going ‘really nicely’. However things changed. One evening she witnessed her cat being run over and the next day she just carried on as normal. She was due to go on holiday to France and she remembers she panicked about going on a boat, something she had previously not worried about. She realised she felt highly nervous all holiday. Eventually she went to the doctor as she felt there was something ‘really wrong’ and she was prescribed anti-depressants. Mandie then went into a “bad place” where her weight fluctuated. She was prescribed more and more medication, and she began to self-harm. She felt the drugs made her worse and she tried to kill herself on a couple of occasions. 

Mandie went to her GP and asked for talking therapies. She was put on a long waiting list and nothing happened. Her health declined significantly during this period. She found she was fearful of everything in the house. Mandie went to a charity to help her deal with a very severe phobia of spiders which made her life difficult. However she felt there was an underlying issue that wasn’t being addressed. She felt she was ruining the lives of the people around her. Anti-depressant medication wasn’t effective and in addition she put on a great deal of weight. 

Mandie felt desperate for some improvement around the time ECT was suggested to her. She researched it and found a lot of evidence for and against it. She really wanted to have the treatment and felt she couldn’t afford private talking therapies. She discussed it with her husband and thought she would go and talk to staff about it. She found the hospital a terrifying place and when she walked in she saw someone being manhandled. The hospital said that she would have to stay in after her treatment but the her husband felt that seeing the kids and him was the one of the only reasons she was still alive. Mandie felt staff at the hospital didn’t relate to her as a person and they both left having decided against ECT. She felt unsupported by a mental health team who offered her drugs but no other support. However, through a charity she accessed counselling and found she slowly improved. She had a ten-week course of therapy through the NHS 14 months after she had asked for it. She found that type of therapy difficult, and different to the CBT she was having through a charity.  

Mandie was scared that “bits of her mind” would go if she had ECT. She was concerned she would no longer be herself. Mandie had little information about ECT from the NHS but managed to do her own research. Even nine years later, she still felt relieved she didn’t have ECT. Mandie would like a health service that provided a supportive environment, where someone would be available to talk to and would understand. She felt that ECT is offered to too many people, and that they might feel like it’s their only option.

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