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Another ECT myth debunked, again

    A 2022 study finds no protection against suicide 30 days after ECT treatment and worse, a 30% increased risk of suicide in the following year.

    Psychiatry’s excuse for using ECT

    Going right back to its beginnings, psychiatrists when confronted by the barbarity of ECT have used the excuse that if they didn’t use it then the patients would be lost to suicide.

    However, contrary to a concerted campaign on this very thing, a very large study of persons who had received ECT in 1986 found the public perception provided by marketing that it exerted long-range protective effects against suicide was simply false.

    ECT machine

    This paper also bought up the point that many of the arguments being used to support the use of ECT as a tool to handle the risk of suicide could not be confirmed by factual data: ‘The conference report (Consensus Development Conference, 1985) states that “the immediate risk of suicide (when not manageable by other means) is a clear indication for consideration of ECT.” However, factual data in support of this contention are not readily obtainable’. 1

    Once again, conflicts in marketing and science

    Despite this, 36 years later statements promoting the use of ECT as an efficacious tool in handling ECT are once again ‘contentious’ due to an apparent ‘lack of data’, a clear sign of a conflict between marketing and science.

    Never let the truth interrupt a successful marketing campaign, right?

    ECT in fact worsens suicide risk in year after treatment

    ‘… for those who had ECT there was a 30% greater risk of suicide in the following year compared to those who had not.’

    A 2022 study was done at the Department of Psychiatry, Geisel Medical School at Dartmouth College, USA in coordination with the Department of Veterans Affairs. Researchers used a study group of 5,157 persons who had received ECT in comparison to a control group of 10,097 who had not

    The study found there was no significant protection from the risk of suicide in the 30 days after treatment.

    But, for those who had received ECT there was a suicide rate of 804.39 per 10,000 in 365 days and for the control group, 564.52 per 10,000 in 1 year. 2

    This simply means for those who had ECT there was a 30% greater risk of suicide in the following year compared to those who had not.

    Further references:

    1. Milstein V, Small JG, Small IF, Green GE. Does Electroconvulsive Therapy Prevent Suicide? Convuls Ther. 1986
    2. Watts BV, Peltzman T, Shiner B. Electroconvulsive Therapy and Death by Suicide. J Clin Psychiatry. 2022