Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A Brief History of Shock Treatment by J. Kent

If you've ever heard anything about shock treatments for depression and other mental illnesses you probably think that's the last thing you would ever agree to of you own free will.

In the movie A Beautiful Mind, based on the true story of John Nash, a Nobel Prize winning mathematician played by Russell Crow, that's exactly where he's headed in this video clip.

The History of Shock Therapy in Psychiatry will give you more details and explain the differences between insulin shock and electro-convulsive therapy, etc.                                                          

In the beginning of the book, A Beautiful Mind,   Sylvia Nasar, uses Wordsworth words from
536. Ode
Intimations of Immortality from Recollections of Early Childhood

Another race hath been, and other palms are won. 
Thanks to the human heart by which we live,
Thanks to its tenderness, its joys, and fears,
To me the meanest flower that blows can give
Thoughts that do often lie too deep for tears.

And this clip shows what it looked like to have these treatments. When Nash was thirty years old he experienced his first episode of paranoid schizophrenia.

But shock treatment has evolved. Remember the story of Kitty Dukakis?
What a brave woman to share her story. And there are others. I know people who have had ECT and thrived. But what's on the horizon? Now we have Transcranial Magnetic Stimulation.

The treatment of depression and other mental illnesses have a long way to go. Just this month the new Diagnostic and Statistical Manuel for Mental Disorders was released and there was controversy about the classifications. This article entitled, Large Genetic Study Paves Way for New Treatment of Mental Illness begins to explore what I believe will provide better treatment and classifications of disorders in the same sophisticated way cancer is treated. I pray this happens in my lifetime. I've witnessed far too much trauma for patients and their families in the last thirty-three years since I entered the field of mental health. My own family has been deeply effected and I know the horrendous pain that mental illness inflicts on a family.

One of the reasons my first two novels in The Ravensmoore Chronicles explores aspects of mental illness from a historical perspective is in hopes of making a difference somehow for someone that may be in difficult situations today. To look back at what was and push forward and through to better mental health for everyone and treatment for those who are afraid to reach out because of the stigma that is still rampant in this country.

If you have an interest in writing about mental health and mental illness I would encourage you to do so.  When we write more books and see more movies that explore and have a positive impact (look at what Silver Linings Playbook) then real progress can be made as others talk about these issues.

What do you think will make a difference in finding better treatment for mental illness? Is this issue ever discussed in your church community?

 For God hath not given us the spirit of fear; but of power, and of love, and of a sound mind. 2nd Timothy 1:7 KJV

Jillian Kent explores the darker side of Regency England. Her latest novel, Mystery of the Heart released in January 2013. Her first novel, Secrets of the Heart will introduce you to asylum life, and Chameleon will take you into historic Bedlam itself. But never fear, romance is alive and well in all of Jillian's novels.

Jillian's novel, Chameleon, recently finaled in the Selah Awards at Blueridge Christian Writer's Conference and is now a finalist for the the Daphne du Maurier Award through Romance Writers of Americas Mystery and Suspense Chapter Contest.

@JillKentAuthor on Twitter

Jillian also writes and coordinates, The Well Writer, for the Christian Fiction Online Magazine.


  1. Thank you Jillian, for this look at mental health issues in history and the strange and ghastly ways they were "treated". I LOVED Silver Linings Playbook--my husband and I watched it last week and were both deeply moved. I'm one of those people who long to write poignant stories of people with disability and how their lives are worthy and how they are made in God's image, too.
    My son has Aspergers Syndrome, and I've been following the DSM 5 which now excludes Aspergers as as distinct diagnosis. Sad that the diagnostic manual is so swayed by the insurance companies and expenses rather than on actual science.

    1. Hi Kathy,
      I thought Silver Linings Playbook did an exceptional job in portraying the struggles of mental illness, and thank God they included some humor in it. :)

      I haven't heard a lot of good things about the DSM 5 this time around and I think they made a big mistake excluding Aspergers Syndrome. I'm not sure what good that's going to do any patients and families.

  2. Very interesting. I followed your link about Kitty Dukasis and found that whole article fascinating. Who knew that shock therapy was still happening, and so commonly? Or that it actually works? I can't say that I would want to choose that myself, but it's good to know that they know better how to use it effectively and minimize side effects. I am very curious as to WHY it works, and maybe someday we'll understand better.
    Thanks for an interesting discussion.

    1. Hi Bethany,
      I thought most folks wouldn't know that ECT is more refined and used every day especially in the treatment of depression.

  3. I feel, like you, that better treatment for mental illness will only come after more positive public awareness from books, movies, & articles.

    I have a cousin that functions on a low level because of O.C.D. - he has been to many doctors, is aware of his problem, & suffers, greatly, from his illness. The effect on he & his family has been devastating.

    Thanks for an interesting article!

    1. Hi bonton,
      Yep, OCD is awful for those who suffer from it. I hope they know about the Obsessive Compulsive Foundation. Also, Rogers Memorial Hospital in Oconomowoc, WI has a wonderful program but is of course very expensive. There are some counties in the US that help cover costs of treatment but I think they are few and far between.

  4. It's all amazing and horrifying at the same time. Thank you for helping us be more aware of the mental community and findings out there. I pray we find a solution or better healing soon! Very interesting information.
    Susan P

  5. My mother had a nervous breakdown and had shock treatments when I was around nine--when she came home from the hospital, she couldn't remember most of my childhood and still doesn't for the most part. Painful and frustrating for both of us, but we're very close and I'm very protective of her even now.

    1. Hi Patty,
      I hope those treatments helped at that time. From what I understand from a friend who underwent ECT recently the memory loss was short lived. I think your mom was very brave. So heart-breaking about her memory loss. I'm so sorry that she and you and the family had to cope with these treatments and the toll they took. I'm glad she has you and those who love her to help sort through it all.

  6. Jill, thanks for letting us know what people with mental illness have had to go through in the name of treatment.

  7. Hi Susan, Marilyn, and all,
    Sorry I was unavailable for most of today. Duty called on the day job and at home. But I'll keep an eye out for other comments and questions.