Electroconvulsive therapy: ‘I have no memory of a year of my life’

Lisa Morrison moved to Northern Ireland from South Africa after she got married.

“I had my children in Northern Ireland, experienced some postnatal depression and then relapsed on my eating disorder,” she told BBC News NI.

“That basically set off a chain of events where I would spend many months of every year in a local inpatient mental health unit.”

Lisa would receive several courses of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) during a seven-year period at Bluestone mental health unit in the Southern Health Trust.

“It’s very difficult to talk about because I have very little memory of this period,” she said.

“There are huge gaps around things that I really should remember as a mum and I find that quite distressing.”

Critics of ECT point to a long-expressed body of anecdotal evidence from patients unhappy with side effects such as severe memory loss and headaches.

However, the Royal College of Psychiatrists said ECT can offer “life-saving treatment” to patients with conditions such as severe depression.

In the years that followed, Lisa began seeing a psychiatrist and is now receiving help to deal with untreated trauma.

“ECT is talked about as a last resort but looking back I have to question whether all other options were exhausted in my case,” she said.

“I believe I was treated well in my inpatient unit, but there is very little meaningful activity and I question if there were others things that could have been put in place and that makes me angry.”

The Southern Health Trust said: “The trust does not comment on individual cases. ECT remains a very effective treatment option and is not prescribed without very careful consideration.”

Lisa said she was only speaking about her own experience and acknowledged there were other cases where patients felt they have benefited from ECT.

She said it was her wish to never be treated with ECT again.

BBC News NI has also reported on concerns that have been raised about the oversight over electroconvulsive therapy in Northern Ireland.

Video journalist: Niall McCracken

BBC News

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