A 48-year mental health watchdog group, the Citizens Commission on Human Rights (CCHR), used an exhibit at the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation (CBCF) Annual Legislative Conference to call for a Congressional investigation into the use of electroshock treatment on children, including some aged five or younger, according to state records obtained by the group. The exhibit, which includes information about electroshock, also known as electroconvulsive therapy or ECT was on display throughout the CBCF conference, taking place September 20 to 24, 2017 at the Walter E. Washington Convention Center in Washington D.C.
The world-traveled exhibit details the history of electroshock and other controversial treatments and human rights abuses in the mental health system. CCHR also provides information about the ECT device manufacturers in the US having never provided the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) the required clinical trials to prove safety and efficacy of the device—a fact that the federal agency is still under criticism for.
The World Health Organization (WHO) has stated that “There are no indications for the use of ECT on minors” and recommended: “this should be prohibited through legislation.”
CCHR is calling on the US Congress to investigate and look into how to follow the WHO’s recommendations. It also wants to see Congress prohibit Medicare and Medicaid funds being used to cover the treatment of ECT in light of the fact that the agencies are funding a treatment the manufacturers have never complied with mandates to prove is safe and effective.
Dr. Linda Lagemann, a CCHR Commissioner, Khallida Farrakhan, and Reverend Frederick D. Shaw Jr., cut the ribbon for the exhibit.
Addressing the official exhibit opening was Reverend Frederick D. Shaw Jr., the Director of Public Affairs of CCHR International, a current Vice President for the NAACP Inglewood/South Bay branch and a former sheriff deputy. He urged the Congressional Black Caucus members to “take the lead in instigating and demanding investigations into the government funding of ECT and its prohibition on children, adolescents and young adults. It is very important to minorities, who are often the targets of potentially harmful psychiatric treatments such as electroshock, to investigate this. Electroshock causes brain damage. With an estimated $1.2 billion spent every year on electroshocking Americans, this funding would be better spent on saving lives not harming them.”
In 2005, the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation honored Rev. Shaw as one of its recipients of the ‘Men Who Care Award’ for his years of service as a child advocate.
Rev. Shaw also warned that the FDA does not have any current statistical data on the use of ECT or how many Americans have suffered brain damage from it; and while many states also do not have ECT usage data, Indiana, Kentucky, Oregon, Pennsylvania, and Utah reported ECT administered to children under five years of age and Indiana, Kansas, Utah, and Washington State reported usage in children 6-12 years of age.
To CCHR and many others that have reported concerns to the FDA about ECT damage, the fact that children are electroshocked with up to 460 volts of electricity through their developing brains is a form of child abuse. This is especially disturbing given that an article in Psychiatric News, the official newspaper of the American Psychiatric Association (APA), said, “We don’t know exactly how electroconvulsive therapy works”… and “One theory is that ECT caused a good kind of brain damage.”
The ECT device was “grandfathered” in under the 1976 Medical Devices Amendments. Since then Congress has intervened through the Safe Medical Devices Act of 1990 demanding that all such devices needed to be either reclassified in a lesser risk category or undergo premarket approval (PMA). In 2009 the Government Accountability Office (GAO) issued a report reinforcing this. Seven years later, the PMA hasn’t been done and five year olds are still being electroshocked despite, also, at least four U.S. states—California, Colorado, Tennessee and Texas—prohibiting its use in children and young teens.
Exhibit also Addresses Psychotropic Drugging of Children
The exhibit also covered the psychotropic drugging of children, particularly the fact that foster children are drugged at huge rates. A 2011 GAO study found foster kids were more likely to be prescribed five or more psychotropic drugs. Five states in that study spent more than $375 million in Medicaid funds for psychotropic drugs for children. Rev. Shaw said “Persons of color are overrepresented in high poverty areas and an analysis of national Medicaid claims for foster youth found 49 percent were on antipsychotics and 48 percent were on antidepressants, despite an FDA ‘black box’ warning that antidepressants cause suicide in children, adolescents and young adults. Antipsychotics create diabetes. We need better protections for these children; whatever has been done to date is insufficient.”
In November 2011 the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), and the Administration for Children and Families (ACF), wrote a joint letter to state health directors encouraging them to strengthen oversight of psychotropic drugs use among the foster care population.
Speaking at the exhibit was Khallada Farrakhan-Mita, Assistant National Director of Auditors for the Nation of Islam, who, as a mother, is very concerned with the harmful effects that drugging children has also on their educational performance. “Instead of helping our children, they are being drugged and left to fend for themselves with whatever problems they are facing in school or at home. We need to be helping our kids to improve their self-worth and employment options rather than covering up problems by drugging them,” Ms. Farrakhan-Mita said.
People viewing the exhibit were urged to sign a petition supporting a ban on ECT in children and adolescents. (https://www.change.org/p/ban-electroshock-ect-device-being-used-on-children-the-elderly-and-vulnerable-patients)
Information about the FDA’s failure to properly address the ECT device controversy is available at: http://emord.com/blawg/press-release-why-litigation-against-fda-on-electroshock-devices-is-likely/; http://emord.com/blawg/wp-content/uploads/2017/08/Supplement-to-Citizens-Petition-29-July-17.pdf