In 1984, twenty-five year old Linda Andre was a gifted photographer and writer on photographic theory and criticism. After being coerced into undergoing 15 electroshocks, Linda became an "accidental activist" in the psychiatric survivor movement and a leading critic of the modality that had stolen her former life. As an activist Linda was a researcher, organizer, spokesperson, lobbyist, writer, muckraker, and gadfly -- as well as a target for smears by the industry she exposed. She was also a wellspring of information, validation and support to countless shock survivors who found their way to her. Her visibility as a shock survivor activist led to her being interviewed by major media including 20/20, the New York Times, the Washington Post and the Atlantic.
Linda first came to the organized mad movement through Project Release in 1985. Following the death of Marilyn Rice in 1992, she directed the Committee for Truth in Psychiatry (CTIP) and carried on its work in advocating for truly informed choice and holding the FDA accountable for failing to effectively regulate electroshock devices. Her final submission to the FDA can be found here.
Linda's activism culminated with the publication of her book Doctors of Deception by Rutgers University Press in 2009. It was a finalist for the Investigative Reporters and Editors Book Award of that year, and remains the definitive critique of electroconvulsive shock.
In testimony before a committee of the New York State Assembly on May 18, 2001 Linda described her work:
"In my position as Director of CTIP I've been in contact with literally thousands of ECT survivors from around the world over the past decade. I keep up with the industry research on ECT; I attend and present at psychiatric conferences; I write and publish on ECT; I consult with agencies such as the Center for Mental Health Services. I've worked with states which have passed or tried to pass laws to protect patients. This last includes an unsuccessful reporting bill in New York State in the early 90s, and reporting bills that were successful in Texas and Vermont. But CTIP's biggest accomplishment has been getting the Food and Drug Administration to acknowledge the risks of ECT, including brain damage and memory loss."
From "A Voice for Truth in Psychiatry," Linda's tribute to Marilyn Rice in Disability Studies Quarterly, Spring 1993:
"Marilyn's greatest legacy may be the impact she had on the lives of so many shock survivors. She helped tum so many lives around in a positive way. I'm a typical example. I honestly don't know where I would be today if I hadn't known Marilyn. I can't even remember how I first came to contact her -- I was still severely organic at the time -- but she told me it was just a few months after my shocks, when I was· still reeling from the loss of my memory, my career, and my friends. The exact details of our first conversation and·meeting have gone to her grave, but I know what her message was: You are not alone. Those four little words make a world of difference, between despairingly believing you're crazy, and finding the strength to fight back. I have said those words myself now so often, every time a survivor says 'I thought I was the only one.'
Nearly ten years after my shocks, I know a great deal about recovery from ECT. But the most important thing I know is: it always begins by finding other survivors. This, as much as our good work at the FDA, is what the CTIP is all about. These are Marilyn's legacies, which I in her place and all of us will help carry on as long as there is a shock machine in operation."
Linda was a participant and presenter at NARPA -- including Discussion and Book Signing: Doctors of Deception in 2009 and Is ECT Safe? Ask the US Government. Then Ask Us with Doug Cameron in 2003. Her primer on "The FDA's Regulation of ECT (Shock Treatment): A Beginner (or Refresher) Course" can be accessed here.
Doctors of Deception
"If I could summarize my book in one sentence it would be this: if you tell a big lie and you tell it often enough and it’s big enough people will believe it." -- Linda Andre -- From "Electroshock Deception": Linda Andre interviewed by Will Hall on Madness Radio, first aired on May 12, 2009. The full interview can be accessed here.
Not long after connecting with Project Release Linda spoke of a recurring nightmare about ringing an alarm bell trying to warn people about electroshock. Her warnings were too often misrepresented or ignored, and the shock industry and its regulatory enablers still evade responsibility for massive harm inflicted in the name of mental health. But the bell Linda rang cannot be unrung. Her work and her book are lit torches, waiting for her successors to pick up and carry.
Doctors of Deception can be purchased from Rutgers University Press as a "protected pdf" and as an eTextbook from Amazon.com. Used -- and some new -- hardcover copies are still available via abebooks.com or Amazon.
"Author and activist Linda Andre has written a marvelously lucid and ably documented book (over 500 references) that not only documents her experiences and that of many others with electroshock, but mounts a systemic assault on the biomedical industrial complex and the willful distortions that many of its actors and servants -- physicians, researchers, government regulators, journalists -- engage in to maintain biomedical dominance and accrue benefits to themselves. In chapter after devastating chapter, Doctors of Deception describes, probes, analyzes, exposes and deconstructs the entire electroshock industry." -- David Cohen, Journal of Mind and Behavior, Summer and Autumn 2010
More from Linda:
ECT Then and Now: letter to Psychiatric Services, published April 1 2005
The FDA's Regulation of ECT (Shock Treatment): A Beginner (or Refresher) Course" (a short primer by Linda Andre)