Natalie Deeth can’t remember her wedding. She’s lost 27 years of her memories after undergoing about a hundred electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) treatments for major depression. But Natalie says the memory loss is worth it. She’s gone from being suicidal to leading a relatively normal, happy life. She says ECT was necessary because extensive psychotherapy and medication hadn’t worked.
Michael works in finance and suffers from major recurrent depression. He has regular ECT. Unlike Natalie Deeth, Michael says he suffers very few side effects from ECT. He says the symptoms of depression are far worse than any downsides of ECT.
Psychiatrist Colleen Loo believes ECT is the most effective treatment for severe depression. She accepts some people can lose years’ worth of memories from their lives after ECT, but she says those people are at the extreme end of the spectrum. She is the Academic Chair of Psychiatry at St George Hospital and a Professorial Fellow at the Black Dog Institute.
Clinical psychologist John Read is against ECT. He recently did a literature review of the published research on the procedure and said '(there is) not a single study in 75 years that shows ECT had any lasting benefits beyond the end of treatment, compared to placebo". He believes ECT causes brain damage and there are safe and effective alternatives. Professor Read is based at the University of Liverpool.