SAN DIEGO, May 23, 2017 /PRNewswire/ -- Psychologists Lt. Col. (Ret.) Bart Billings, Ph.D., from San Diego and John Breeding from Texas joined mental health industry watchdog Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR) in opening a traveling exhibit on psychiatry in San Diego, California, on May 20, 2017. The event was held to raise awareness about electroshock (ECT) and to support a ban on its use, as the American Psychiatric Association (APA) is actively lobbying the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates the electroshock device, to increase its use. The psychologists are concerned that already in 2015, more than 770 active military or their family members were given electroshock in addition to over 1,000 veterans or their family members, according to Tricare and Veteran Affair statistics.
Tricare even reported that children five and younger, while their brain is still developing, have been electroshocked. Both Billings and Breeding, have been outspoken against the mass drugging of military members and veterans but see the use of electroshock (also known as electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT — up to 460 volts of electricity through the brain) as an even greater assault.
Addressing hundreds attending the Exhibit opening, Dr. Billings, author of Invisible Scars: How to Treat Combat Stress and PTSD Without Medication, said he's especially concerned about ECT when some patients may already be suffering from brain injuries from combat duty. "I feel any treatment that destroys healthy brain cells, which ECT does, should be seen as criminal abuse," he said.
Dr. John Breeding, Ph.D., an Austin, Texas psychologist of more than 30 years, echoed Dr. Billings' concerns. Breeding was instrumental in helping obtain a Texas ban on electroshocking children and adolescents younger than 16 and Texas now has one of the strongest ECT reporting laws. "ECT is an absolute wrong," said Breeding. "It always causes brain damage, it always causes memory loss. It sometimes kills people, and, therefore, has no place in a 'therapeutic' environment. It should be banned."
CCHR hosted the exhibit, which includes award-winning documentaries on the history of psychiatry. They recently obtained the Tricare statistics on ECT usage, finding that between 2010 and 2016, an average of 745 military personnel or their family members were given an average of 12,147 electroshocks each year. CCHR also filed a Freedom of Information Act request to the VA which showed that between 2012 and 2016, an average of 950 veterans or their family members were given an average of 11,323 electroshocks each year.
ECT causes a grand mal seizure, which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) reports can cause cardiovascular complications (including heart attacks), breathing complications, confusion, permanent memory loss, brain damage and death.
In 2016, Petty Officer 3rd Class Wilbur Harwell was found not guilty by "lack of mental responsibility" for the June 6, 2014, stabbing of another sailor at Portsmouth Naval Medical Center. Harwell had undergone a dozen rounds of electroshock and was taken off psychiatric drugs immediately prior to the unprovoked attack. Studies report that stopping psychotropic drugs can cause violent withdrawal affects, let alone the added violence of electroshock to the brain. In 2013, British psychiatrist Joanna Moncrieff and others reported in The Journal of Psychoactive Drugs: "It is now accepted that all major classes of psychiatric medication produce distinctive withdrawal effects…. Just like the various substances that are used recreationally, each type of psychiatric medication induces a distinctive altered mental and physical state…."
As early as World War I, psychiatrists used electroshock on soldiers "complaining" about battle fatigue or neurosis. In Germany, soldiers were electroshocked using a strong alternating current combined with verbal suggestions in the form of military-style commands. Friedrich Panse, who later became the president of the German Society for Psychiatry and Neurology, also founded a procedure using electric shock on soldiers near the front during World War II, used to get them to continue fighting. Panse's method was dreaded as a method of torture.
Current ECT Facts:
- The Food and Drug Administration (FDA), which regulates the ECT device, has never required the ECT device manufacturers to produce clinical trials to prove the device's safety and efficacy. In response to this failure, in August 2016, Jonathon Emord & Associates filed a Citizens Petition with the FDA Commissioner opposing the agency's proposal to reduce the risk classification of the ECT device and called for it to be taken off the market.
- Psychiatrists assert that ECT is now "safe and effective" compared to the days of the 1976 Academy-Award-winning film, "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest," when Jack Nicholson's character was electroshocked without anesthetic or muscle relaxant.
- However, evidence presented to the FDA last year included studies of inter-cranial bleeding and loss of brain tissue following ECT. An article published in Advances in Psychiatric Treatment in 2006 stated the "newer methods of ECT have not resulted in an appreciable decrease in adverse effects."
- Veterans Health Library says ECT may be used for people with severe depression or suicidal thoughts. Missing information is that there is a 40 to 70 percent relapse rate. Often, psychotropic drugs that failed to "work," leading to the recommendation of ECT, are continued after undergoing the "seizure" treatment. A Texas ECT Annual Report that recorded six deaths in 2014 shortly after ECT administration, four of which were suicide. Suicide was the leading cause of death within two weeks post ECT.
- The Veterans Health Library reinforces what the American Psychiatric Association admits: that it is not known exactly how this ECT works. Neither has the FDA ever enforced ECT device makers to produce clinical trials proving the safety and efficacy of the electroshock device, which CCHR cites as another reason why it should not be used on members of the Armed Forces or veterans.
More than 3,500 people have signed an online petition, launched during Mental Health Month, calling for a ban on the use of electroshock, which CCHR encourages veterans, military and their family members to sign.
CCHR's Traveling Exhibit on the history of psychiatry is open until May 27, 2017. Located at: 1047 J Street, San Diego, California. Open from 9 a.m. – 9 p.m.
Contact: Amber Rauscher, [email protected] or (323) 467-4242.
About Citizens Commission on Human Rights:
CCHR was established in 1969 by the Church of Scientology and Dr. Thomas Szasz, Professor of Psychiatry and Lifetime Fellow of the APA. CCHR has helped obtain over 175 laws that protect individuals against psychiatric abuse. A California State Assembly Recognition of CCHR states:
"The contributions that the Citizens Commission on Human Rights International has made to the local, national and international areas on behalf of mental health issues are invaluable and reflect an organization devoted to the highest ideals of mental health services."
 "Attorney: Sailor charged with attempted murder found not guilty by 'lack of mental responsibility,'" The Virginian-Pilot, 26 Feb. 2016, http://pilotonline.com/news/military/local/attorney-sailor-charged-with-attempted-murder-found-not-guilty-by/article_1065b359-36d4-5996-a3fc-bf370ac5e0ed.html; "Attorney says Navy sailor had shock therapy before stabbing another sailor in Portsmouth," The Virginian Pilot, 1 Sept. 2015, http://pilotonline.com/news/military/attorney-says-navy-sailor-had-shock-therapy-before-stabbing-another/article_e00f87a2-d182-5d76-b887-8835d9ccc771.html.
 Joanna Moncrieff, M.B.B.S., David Cohen, and Sally Porter, "The Psychoactive Effects of Psychiatric Medication: The Elephant in the Room," J Psychoactive Drugs. 2013 Nov; 45(5): 409–415; https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4118946/.
 Dr. Thomas Röder, Volker Kubillus, Anthony Burwell, Psychiatrists--The Men Behind Hitler (Los Angeles, Freedom Publishing, 1995), pp. 26-27: footnote 13.
 Ibid., pp. 207: footnote 11.
 Brain 2011: 134; p. 1240, https://oup.silverchair-cdn.com/oup/backfile/Content_public/Journal/brain/134/4/10.1093/brain/awr040/2/awr040.pdf?Expires=1495587766&Signature=Gyp0Z6MO-ALbvV6vR4SaQf4mBLECV3QGswQU5MCczlaIurLKcczEtxwG3CrCTCKvccJp670lgY544IQ16Bq-pKuJlw2ZZpPb78sGiftRVEuo4CYLQsfiunCSSRpU~MhR2Pm4SLaHYXAnBEqMHGPYs-qVcTYCEd~hOE8teNIm3Tv1tfn7Dk9dOMrhhBIM0m2G3tYIq4ZvDbj2~8WSiE3rJyh9enPiuBmdmK~FkbTlXIvl6ZK8PePq7bNuLdY4cUFw~p-~PRfZTRV~EVwtucx7lEG4bFWfJENOU76F0vTYlveRq8n8hqwFNC7LQg5rcWM82TWBE5S92Sf6AFuCVeQ1Cw__&Key-Pair-Id=APKAIUCZBIA4LVPAVW3Q.
 Jonathan Emord & Associates, Citizens Petition regarding the classification of the ECT Device, August, 2016, http://emord.com/blawg/wp-content/uploads/2016/08/1-ECT-Citizen-Petition.pdf.
 Harold Robertson, Robin Pryor, "Memory and cognitive effects of ECT: informing and assessing patients," Advances in Psychiatric Treatment, May 2006, 12 (3) 228-237; DOI: 10.1192/apt.12.3.228, http://apt.rcpsych.org/content/12/3/228.full.
 Ana Jelovac, et al., "Relapse Following Successful Electroconvulsive Therapy for Major Depression: A Meta-Analysis," Neuropsychopharmacology, Nov 2013, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3799066/.
 Texas Department of State Health Services. Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) Reports, FY 2014 ECT Annual Report, page 1, http://www.dshs.texas.gov/mhsa/bhmd/ect/.
SOURCE Citizens Commission on Human Rights International