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Brain Stimul. 2016 Nov - Dec;9(6):882-891. doi: 10.1016/j.brs.2016.07.005. Epub 2016 Jul 20.

Based on a True Story? The Portrayal of ECT in International Movies and Television Programs.

Author information

1
KU Leuven - University of Leuven, University Psychiatric Center KU Leuven, Academic Center for ECT and Neuromodulation (AcCENT), Leuvensesteenweg 517, 3070 Kortenberg, Belgium. Electronic address: pascal.sienaert@upckuleuven.be.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Movies and television (TV) programs are an important source of public information about ECT.

OBJECTIVE:

To narratively review the portrayal of ECT in international movies and TV programs from 1948 until present.

METHODS:

Several Internet movie databases and a database of phrases appearing in movies and TV programs were searched, supplemented with a Medline-search. No language restrictions were applied.

RESULTS:

ECT was portrayed in 52 movies (57 scenes), 21 TV programs (23 scenes), and 2 animated sitcoms (2 scenes). In movies, the main indication for ECT is behavioral control or torture (17/57, 29.8%), whereas in TV programs, the most frequent indication is erasing memories (7/25, 28%). In most scenes (47/82; 57.3%) ECT is given without consent, and without anesthesia (59/82; 72%). Unmodified ECT is depicted more frequently in American scenes (48/64, 75%), as opposed to scenes from other countries (11/18; 64.7%). Bilateral electrode placement is used in almost all (89%, 73/82) scenes. The vast majority of movies (46/57, 80.7%) and TV programs (18/25, 72%) show a negative and inaccurate image of the treatment.

CONCLUSION(S):

In the majority of scenes, ECT is used as a metaphor for repression, mind and behavior control, and is shown as a memory-erasing, painful and damaging treatment, adding to the stigma already associated with ECT. Only a few exceptions paint a truthful picture of this indispensable treatment in modern psychiatry.

KEYWORDS:

Electroconvulsive therapy; Media; Movie; Stigma

PMID:
27522170
DOI:
10.1016/j.brs.2016.07.005
[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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