Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT)

The National Mental Health Association's Policy Position
The National Mental Health Association recognizes that Electroconvulsive Therapy (ECT) is a controversial procedure and that, although it may have beneficial results, it also involves serious risks; reports on its results range from “live-saving” to “damaged for life.”

Therefore, the National Mental Health Association (NMHA) urges increased, rigorous and objective research on ECT, in particular in regard to safety issues; collection of more extensive data on the use and results of ECT and on best practices; and more effective dissemination of research data. NMHA also advocates the establishment of a national data bank, operated under the oversight of the Center for Mental Health Services, requiring the scrupulous recording of all ECT given, with documentation and dissemination of results.

NMHA also supports the position that potential ECT recipients and their significant others, and families or guardians when appropriate, must have access to information on the procedure from a range of sources, both pro and con, to enable them to make truly informed decisions about it. Most important, anyone who chooses ECT must do so competently and without coercion.

NMHA recommends that ECT be presented as an alternative with extreme caution, only after all other treatment approaches, such as medication and psychotherapy, have either failed or have been seriously and thoroughly evaluated and rejected.

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