A CCHR protest in Scotland
Jan Eastgate, Rev. Fred Shaw and Rev. Alfreddie Johnson with Bishop Desmond Tutu in South Africa
CCHR exposes Deep Sleep Treatment
Over 700 marched at the American Psychiatric Association Convention to demand a ban on ECT and other abuses (top and above, left). CCHR opened their exhibit nearby where thousands learned the history of psychiatry (above, right).
CCHR speaks out loudly for nationwide ban on electroshock treatment at the American Psychiatric Association Convention.

Neither hell nor high water could keep CCHR volunteers from making their voices heard in San Francisco at the 172nd American Psychiatric Association (APA) annual conference. As rain descended on the more than 700 protesters, the protesters descended on the Moscone Convention Center, the conference venue. Their message was loud and clear, splashed across banners, placards and even their umbrellas: “Stop the Torture” and “Ban Electroshock Treatment.”

They marched against the continuing use of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) on 100,000 Americans each year—some aged five or younger. ECT, the passage of up to 460 volts of electricity through the brain causing a grand mal seizure, can result in permanent memory loss and brain damage. Several psychiatrists even joined the protest and others gave a thumbs up for the ban, agreeing with placards calling electroshock “torture, not therapy.”

The protest was made all the more necessary by the fact that pregnant women, children and the elderly are being electroshocked. Add to that the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) failure to demand that shock device manufacturers provide clinical studies to prove the device is safe and effective, allowing them to remain on the market despite one manufacturer conceding last year that ECT could cause permanent brain damage.

Following the march, CCHR opened its traveling exhibit across the street from the convention center, making it available to all APA conference attendees and San Francisco residents alike.

Speaking at the exhibit opening, the President of CCHR International, Jan Eastgate, spoke of how in 1976 CCHR helped set a precedent with a California law banning electroshock treatment on children and adolescents. “This ban needs to be expanded to all age groups and worldwide,” she said, “because electroshock causes harm, creates brain damage and ruins lives. CCHR has been documenting this for 50 years.”

Other speakers were James Sweeney, Political Liaison for the Black American Political Association of California (BAPAC), who supported a ban on ECT and spoke about the history of psychiatry’s racism. Emceeing the exhibit opening was Fran Andrews, the Executive Director of CCHR International. She was joined by Lee Spiller, the head of CCHR Texas—the state with the strongest law to date providing protections against ECT. [Learn more on Lee Spiller’s work at]

Forced psychiatric treatment, including ECT, are “practices constituting torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.” —United Nations Human Rights Council report on “Mental health and human rights”

CCHR draws attention to little known facts about ECT: Pregnant women, even in their third trimester, are electroshocked despite adverse events that include miscarriage, premature labor, stillbirth, fetal heart problems and malformation.

Approximately 70 percent of shock survivors are women and 45–50 percent are over 60 years old, with 10–15 percent being 80 years and older. Hundreds of US veterans are given electroshock treatment every year, according to Veteran Administration statistics. ECT adverse effects include cardiovascular complications, stroke, cognitive and memory impairment, prolonged seizures, worsening of symptoms and death.

A July 2018 United Nations Human Rights Council report on “Mental health and human rights” called on governments to recognize that forced psychiatric treatment, including ECT, are “practices constituting torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.”


As a nonprofit mental health watchdog, CCHR relies on memberships and donations to carry out its mission to eradicate psychiatric violations of human rights and clean up the field of mental health. To become part of the world’s largest movement for mental health change, join the group that has helped enact more than 180 laws protecting citizens from abusive psychiatric practices.