S66: ECT and the consumer – what about peer support?

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By September 12, 2019 No Comments

Authors: Karen Wells, Nicola Hancock, Anne Honey, Justin Scanlan, Lisa Gomez

Year: 2019

Event: 2019 TheMHS Conference

Subject: ECT and the consumer - what about peer support?

Type of resource: Conference Presentations and Papers



Karen Wells has worked in the Community Sector for decades including as the Consumer Coordinator at Partners in Recovery. It was in this capacity that she developed the “ECT-Let’s talk about it!!” project. Karen brings her personal experience of ECT to inform her work and research at Sydney University.

ECT is perhaps the mental health intervention with the greatest stigma and greatest controversy. This presentation will report on two consumer-led studies, that highlight the impact that the stigmatized nature of ECT has on isolating people and limiting opportunities for peer communities of sharing and support.

The role of peer workers in mental health is a recent, increasingly evidence-based addition to mental health services. However, the voices of lived experience regarding ECT is lacking and the potentially powerful role that peers could provide in this context is ignored. People with lived experience of ECT report a lack of opportunity to connect with peers to discuss, learn about others experiences of ECT and to share and learn about strategies others use to manage ongoing impacts and navigate life following ECT. They describe being lonely and isolated in their ECT experience.

The healing power of peers (promoting strength, hope and personal autonomy) could support a paradigm shift from individual pathology and illness to communities of empowerment, resilience and wellbeing. It would also bring the treatment of ECT more in-line with principles of recovery-oriented practice and trauma informed care.

Learning Objectives
Learning objective 1: The audience will learn about the issues important to those with lived experience of ECT from their own stories and what they say helps or hinders their recovery. Most notably the support opportunities in peer relationships.
Learning objective 2: This topic is relevant to mental healthy services because it exposes a gap in the system – the potential role of peers and peer workers to support needs of consumers receiving or contemplating ECT.

Koopowitz, L. F., Chur-Hansen, A., Reid, S., & Blashki, M. (2003). The subjective experience of patients who received electroconvulsive therapy. Australian & New Zealand Journal of Psychiatry, 37(1), 49-54.
Rose, D., Fleischmann, P., & Wykes, T. (2004). Consumers' views of electroconvulsive therapy: A qualitative analysis. Journal of Mental Health, 13(3), 285-293.

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