- Though slated for closure in 1999, the ongoing need for mental health services has meant that the Brockville Mental Health Centre (BPH) in Ontario continues to operate as a psychiatric teaching facility, affiliated with the University of Ottawa and Queen's University. The campus provides forensic psychiatry treatment for 100 Ontario Correctional inmates, and 59 long-term care forensic patients. It also provides a wide range of inpatient and outpatient services to approximately 1,300 patients in Eastern Ontario. Sue Clark was a patient there from March - September 1973. Sue Clark was l7 years old when she was admitted to BPH. Sue was transferred to BPH from the Royal Ottawa Hospital in March 1973.
Electroshock (ECT) being administered at the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital (BPH) Sue Clark had 5 ECTSs given to her against her will at the age of l7 years old in 1973. Dr. Louis Sipos was her
psychiatrist on Ward H at BPH. On Sue's 5th ECT, her heart stopped and she had to be revived.
ECT was discontinued for Sue after that. Sue suffers from permanent memory loss and has difficulty learning new things as a result of having had ECT. Prior to ECT Sue had a good memory and had no learning difficulties.
Above is a picture of the continuous bath therapy given to patients at BPH who were agitated or having difficulty sleeping after being placed in one of the bath units in charge of a special nurse. The water flowed continuously.
Disturbing news at BPH:
In the summer of 1993, people in Ontario were shocked by one of the most bizarre murders in the province's history. A patient at the Brockville psychiatric hospital was brutally killed in a forest grove on the grounds of the institution. One of the killers, a nearly blind psychiatric patient, walked into a nearby police station and turned himself in. The other murderer lay near the body in a sleeping bag, drugged into unconsciousness. Police found that the myopic suspect is one of the Canada's most dangerous killers, David Michael Krueger. His accomplice was Bruce Hamill, a murderer who had been freed after years of treatment at Penatanguishene's Oak Ridge Institution for the criminally insane. Brockville hospital authorities had let Hamill escort Krueger on his first day pass in thirty-five years. How could this killing have happened? The bizarre story of Krueger's life unfolds in this tightly-written book. It explores how Krueger allowed his strange fantasies to run his own life and how he was able to dupe psychiatrists, lawyers, and fellow inmates of the country's toughest institution into doing his bidding
Sue gets admitted to Brockville Psychiatric Hosptial (March - September 1973)
The attendants escorted me into the main admission area of the building which was situated on the ground floor. A nurse came out of a room and thanked the ambulance attendants. The nurse told me to sit down and
place my box of belongings on the floor. I sat on an old oak chair. The nurse asked me my name and started searching the box. I asked the nurse, "What are you doing?" The nurse turned around to me and stated,
"This is a standard procedure here. When new patients are admitted, we examine their belongings to see if they have scissors or razor blades, anything sharp that they can use to harm themselves". She continued her search.
The nurse then asked me to follow her downstairs. We walked down a dimly lit underground tunnel. The tunnel had a wide yellow stripe down the middle of the floor. It was a long and winding tunnel with signs denoting the wards. The nurse took me into a large room along the tunnel. As I walked into the room I saw a man sitting at a desk surrounded by photography equipment. The nurse sat on a chair as I looked about the room.
The man motioned for me to sit in front of a camera on a tripod. I questioned the man by saying "Why do you
want to take my picture?". The photographer looked at me and stated "We take pictures of all new patients being admitted to the hospital. If you escaped from the hospital we could call the police and they could
pick you up by knowing what you look like." The man snapped a few pictures of me.
The nurse returned me to the Grey stone building. We took a small elevator up to Ward H. The nurse knocked on a wooden door that was locked. A petite nurse opened the door. " This is a new patient. Her name is
Suzanne Legare. She was transferred here from the Royal Ottawa Hospital" the nurse said. The petite nurse motioned for me to follow her. "Suzanne, I'm going to show you to your room. Bring the box with you. I
entered a room with two beds. I was instructed to take the bed next to the wall. The nurse left the room. I went to a window that had a thick steel mesh screen on it. As I looked outside I could see a large area of vast green grass. I saw large oaks trees, benches, and picnic tables. I saw many Grey stone buildings adjoined to each other. Some people were walking and some people were sitting down. A few cars went by.
All of a sudden I heard a voice yell "Medication time everyone". I went out of my room and saw many people standing in a long line. A heavy set nurse was standing in front of the line with a steel cart with wheels. On the cart were two pitchers and little paper containers with lots of different colored pills. I waited in line until it was my
turn. As I approached the cart, the nurse smiled and said "Hi, Suzanne my name is Terry. Here is your medication. We call the medication 'happy pills". Take some juice and swallow these". I did what she instructed me to do. I then walked down the corridor. I noticed the ward was co-ed.
As I walked around the ward I passed by a room that had a wooden door that was locked. There was a small window in the middle of the door. I looked through the window and saw it was bare. There was no furniture and the walls had nothing hanging on them. I wondered to myself what that room was being used for.
I then walked over to the t.v. room. I saw some people who had fallen asleep and their heads were drooping onto their chests. Some patients had a blank cold stare as they stared at the walls as if staring into
space. Other patients were smoking cigarettes. There was a black and white t.v. in the room. The local news was on . I heard a staff member holler down the corridor to us "Lunch is ready".
I followed my peers into a huge room. I sat down at a long table. At the back of the room was a cafeteria style set-up. I lined up to get my lunch. A middle aged woman dressed in a white uniform and apron served me. I
put soup and a sandwich on my tray and walked over to my table. An obese woman smiled at me and said "Hi, my name is Louise. I am your roommate. What is your name?" I told her who I was. Louise started to
talk about her hospital stay at the local general hospital the night before. "Suzanne, I got back here to Ward H this morning. I saw you coming onto this ward. I swallowed a few toothbrushes last night. The staff found
out because I told another patient and she squealed on me. Then the staff on duty last night sent me to the emergency ward at the local hospital. They took an x-ray of my stomach and saw four toothbrushes."
Louise started to laugh hysterically.
I was shocked by what she said and just nodded my head. I looked around the room and saw a man cleaning dirty trays off into a big plastic garbage pail. A staff member counted the dirty silverware and said in a
loud voice "The count is o.k. You can all leave now". Another staff member unlocked the dining room door to let us all out.
LIFE ON WARD H
Ward H was a terrifying place. I did not trust most of the staff on the ward. My fellow patients were kind and we looked out for each other. The dangerous people I felt were the staff not my peers. It was like a brotherhood and sisterhood on the ward. We taught the new patients who to look out for (meaning the staff) and to get to know the ropes on the ward. For example, we told each other how not to swallow the pills and putthem under our tongue. I got away with this stunt for months. I was so hyper and agitated on the ward that I was given the long black jelly pills called sleeping pills. I would take two of those pills and they wouldn't put knock me out for hours.
I once asked "Terry" the tall and overweight nurse what would happen to the average person taking these two black sleeping pills. She told me this "it would knock out a horse in no time" I would pour hot water from the bathroom hot water tap and pour instant coffee into a styrfoam cup and pace the halls all night.
Our rooms had no doors but a wall going halfway up. We had a curtain to pull across the makeshift wall. No privacy at all. There was a thick steel mesh on our windows. The door to the ward H was locked. The hallways were in a L shape. You got off at the elevator and then turned right to the locked ward and knocked on the door to the entrance of the ward. As you walked onto ward H, to the left was the men's bedrooms and to the right were the women's bedrooms. In the center of the long hallway was a small nurses' office with a door that went half way up. As you went past the women's bedrooms, you would enter another hallway that was shorter. To the left were a few small rooms, one of which was used for group therapy and one used for the medical students to use like the psychologist etc. To the right of this short hallway was a big recreation room that had an enclosed balcony overlooking the entrance to the building.
The recreation room had an old record player and old records. There was a ping pong table. There were some tables and chairs. We had board games and cards. Most of my peers would congregate there everyday and we would sit and talk about everything under the sun. Some would complain about the hospital staff and the hospital food, some would complain about their medications and that it they didn't like taking it. Some people would sit there stoned faced and stare up at the walls. My peers generally looked very depressed and sad with a look of having no hope in sight for them. This image sears into my memory and makes me sad knowing how
psychiatry that locked me and my peers up. Losing your freedom is an awful and painful experience. Having to ask permission to go off the ward to go for a walk. Hearing the door lock behind you as you enter the ward.
To this day I cannot stay in my apartment all day. I have to get out to have the feeling and know I am free to come and go as I want to and as I wish to.
We had to take public showers a few times a week. I was told to stand in line at the two shower stalls with no curtains, and come in disrobed with no clothes on in front of my other naked female peers. I had just gained 30 pounds and I was already self conscious. I had to stand there stark naked. It was the most humiliating experience of my life that still affects me to this day. I used to cry before going into the shower room. My peers would stare at the floor or look up to the ceiling trying not to look at each other and give some type of respect to each other in that controlled environment.
I believe the staff were trying to break down our spirit. They did not succeed in doing that to me. I yelled at them and told them what I thought about the public showers. The staff would increase my medications to shut
me up. The staff resented patients who were rebellious on the ward.
This is what the Brockville hospital looked like from the outside. You'd pass by the highway and you would see a vast area of grass with buildings in the background. There were benches on the grounds and I would
wave to public as they drove by. The area had huge oak and maple trees. A tennis court was visible from the highway. As you drove into the hospital grounds, you would see the staff wearing white and the
patients walking behind them. Some patients were able to walk on the grounds by themselves.
We were given privileges. Privileges were earned. For example, a new patient would be restricted to the ward. Let's call this privilege number one. Privilege number two would be being allowed to go for a walk with the staff. Privilege number three would be being allowed to go for a walk alone. Privilege number four would be being
allowed to off the grounds. Privilege number five would be being allowed to go away from the hospital for the weekend. Some ward were "token" wards. Patients were given tokens (points) for getting up, some
tokens were given for making their beds and for doing their everyday chores on the ward. Life on the wards were difficult for my peers.
Some of my peers had different problems. I had many roommates during my six months on Ward H. Louise as you read in chapter one would swallow toothbrushes. My other roommate called Amanda was a young girl about l5 years old. She would scream sometimes as she walked down the co-ed ward and then suddenly take off all her clothes and then run down the hallway. The staff would run after her with a sheet to cover her up, and Amanda would kick and scream as the staff tried to subdue her.
Another patient on my ward named Carole was developmentally disabled. She had her room at the end of the hallway on the other side of the corridor. Her door was locked at nights. She would sit at her door and pound her head against the door all night screaming "let me out, let me out". Carole would cry all night. I was terrible to hear her screaming and crying every night. I wished I had had a key to let her out. Louise would try to hit the staff at times. The staff would put Louise into the "quiet" room on the ward. The quiet room was in the middle of the mens' corridor. The door had a small window where someone could look in. The door was always locked.
One day as I walking by the mens' corridor, a few of my male peers were crowded around the quiet room door. I said to them "what is going on, what are you looking at? The men pulled away from the door to let me see what they were looking at. I was in shock as I looked into the door window. Louise was naked and dancing all around the small room. There was no furniture in the room except for a mattress on the floor. I did not see Louise's clothes anywhere. I moved back from the window and went up to one of the nurses and said to her "why is Louise in that room with no clothes on?" The nurse looked me into my eyes with an angry scrowl on her face and said "she got out of hand". I felt so bad for Louise I did not who to call or what to do.
I felt helpless on this ward. It was then that I realized we the patients had no human rights. The ward was a terrifying place to be. I wanted to leave right away. As you walked into our building, you took the elevator up to the second floor. Once you got off the elevator you would turn right and about l0 feet away from the entrance door to Ward H. My ward. You would knock on the door until a staff member would open the door for you. The door was locked behind you. The ward corridor was long. To the left of the entrance door was the mens' dorm, and to the left was the womens' dorm. The womens' washroom had three stalls with no locks on the door. We had a little sink with cold and very hot boiling water. We would drink isntant coffee at night with the hot boiling water from the sink tap. By the sink was a tiny window overlooking to the immediate left of the hospital grounds. You could see a long road and a few houses outside the window. Our rooms had a small night table with wheels. We had vinyl mattreses and pillows.
I remember one morning when I sharing my room with a girl named Amanda. She pulled out of my bed by the hair and pulled onto the floor in a few seconds. I was sleeping like a baby when she terrorized me. The
staff grabbed Amanda and put her into the quiet room. Amanda and I got along well. I don't know why she did this to me. She frightened me to death. My scalp hurt as she yanked out some of my hair by the roots.
On another day, I remember a patient named Betty who lived in Brockville. Her husband had left her. Betty had a nervous breakdown as a result and landed up on Ward H. As I recall, I can still hear her sobbing loudly all night. A male nurse named Mr. Shannon talked to her and tried to console her all throught he night. Her sobbing was heart wrenching.
I started to smoke cigarettes on the ward. The hospital would give us tobacco. The tobacco was strong tasting. My peers would roll my cigarettes for me. I was given a job at the hospital as a recreation
assistant. I help the elderly patients on the wards daily for 25 cents an hour. Every morning I would arrive at 9 a.m. at a geriatric ward. The Polka Dot Door tv show was on as the elderly patients were sitting around the tables watching the tv show. I was told to play board games with the patients. The staff were cold and indifferent to me. I liked working with the elderly patients. I worked for two hours a day and then I returned to Ward H by walking through the hospital tunnel. I then had my lunch and then in the afternoon I would go for walks with some of my peers.
One of my peers came from Hungary. He took me under his wing so to speak. He always accompanied me on my walks in the tunnels and outside on the grounds. He was always a gentleman with me. He was in his forties and I was l7 years old. Another male patient about 25 years old. He had blond hair and blue piercing eyes. He was transferred from upstairs from Ward K the Forensic ward. I never knew what forensic meant and never bothered to ask. H would also accompany me around too. These two men became good friends of mine while I was on Ward H. I did not realize at the time that those men took it upon themselves to protecting me. They were protecting me from the danger that lay lurking in the tunnel.
Some male staff were paying some female patients to have sex with them in the washrooms in the tunnel. A male
patient would be outside the bathroom door as a lookout. If someone came by, the lookout would knock on the locked bathroom door and say "I need to go the washroom". The male staff would leave the bathroom while
the woman would leave later on. I did not know this until a few years ago, and then it became public in the Brockville newspaper. The sex ring at the hospital was then investigated by the local police department. I thank my two male friends on my ward for having protected me while I was in the hospital. They saved me from the horrors in the tunnel.
I had been at the hospital for about a month, that would be May of 1973. The weather outside was starting to warm up and on the wards we had no air conditioning. Our mattresses and pillows were vinyl and I remember sweating alot while I was sleeping. The medications I took had many side effects. I was not allowed to sit in the sun or I would burn into a bright red like a lobster. We were given no sunscreen to wear. I wore a hat to protect me from the sun. I was gaining more and more weight from all the medications and the lack of good nutrition on the ward. We rarely ate fresh fruit. We always were given cakes and cookies for snacks. The food was the regular hospital food that had a bland taste.
We had a recreation room at the end of one corridor. There was a record player, a ping pong table, and outdoor covered veranda. I often played the "Deep Purple" record and the "Moody Blues". One night I wanted to cheer up my peers. We had a stretcher against one wall outside the rec room with clothes on it. I put on about 3 layer of clothes from top to bottom. I walked into the rec room and told everyone, "I am going to shut off the lights tonight, and here is a show for you all". I dimmed the lights and then proceeded to simulate a strip tease show. My peers were clapping and said "More, more". Little did I realize that one of the nurses had just come upon my show. "Turn on the lights everyone, the show is over". I was angry at having to quit the fun. I said to the nurse "why can't we just have a little bit of fun around here. You can't put me away because I am already in the looney bin, eh". My peers roared with laughter bu the nurse looked at me with her big brown eyes. She walked away in ahuff and a puff. My peers cheered as the nurse was leaving. I guess I have always been a bit of a clown. My clowning around has helped me through some of my darkest hours.
During the evening we have no planned activities on the ward. You could watch the local tv shows and I didn't care to do that. I would play "Crazy Eights" the card game all the time. I became a bit of a champion you could say. We had tournaments. I went for walks with my male friends. One evening, my male friend John from Hungary said to me "Susie, let's go to town and get a bottle of wine". I said to John "no way, I can't do that". John told me he would go to town and get a bottle of wine and I was to meet him at the little shack on the grounds. So I waited for John. He showed up with a red bottle of wine and some gum. We sat on the floor of the shack and shared the bottle of wine. I said to John "hey, not bad wine". I took some gum to take away the alcohol smell from my mouth. John had mouthwash with him and I gurgled my mouth with it. John led me into Ward H. He told me to go to bed right away to avoid the staff. I did just that. The next morning I had a hangover for sure. That was the last time John and I shared a bottle of wine on the hospital grounds.
One morning, the recreation director came up on the elevator and was looking for me and some of my peers to go down to his program downstairs in the basement called West OT. Jeff rounded us up and then told us on the way down the elevator "you know Paul the new patient, the big guy who was quiet, well I was walking near the train tracks and I saw his body on the train tracks. A train ran over him. It ruined my breakfast seeing that". I felt sick to my stomach when I heard the news about Paul. Paul had been on our ward for about a month. He was a tall and overweight man who wore suspenders with his pants. He was withdrawn and never spoke to anyone. I guessed that Paul had committed suicide. It was a sad day for all of my peers on the ward. The word got around quickly about what happened to Paul that morning.
I felt like a prisoner on my ward and I was determined to get out soon. A peer of mine told me that I "had to play the game". The game was to go along with the psychiatrist and no matter how you were feeling to say "I feel fine doctor, I am ready to go now". Fake it was the name of the game to get out. I did that and I was going to leave in a few months.
My parents, Paul Andre and Theresa and my brother Christian (Chris) would come to visit me at the hospital once a month. They drove from Ottawa to Brockville. It was an hours drive and 60 miles from Brockville. My dad had a jeep. My dad would give me $5.00 for an allowance for the month. He was always cheap that way. My parents never took me outside the hospital to a restaurant or anything in town at Brockville. We went for a walk on the grounds, and went to the cafeteria. My parents and brother were going to Europe for a month. My family took pictures of me at the hospital. I looked forward to seeing my brother Chris and not my parents. I resented my parents for as long as I could remember. The abuse in our home started when I was an infant.
I used to walk down the tunnel to go to the library. One day I saw a stretcher with a white sheet over it and it terrified me. I asked the orderly "is that a dead body?". The orderly nodded "yes, it is, one of the folks from the geriatric ward". I felt faint at seeing that white sheet on the stretcher. I went to the library and found an escapethrough reading books. It was a small room with lots of books. The librarian was friendly. I recall many years later that a peer of mine had told me she was raped by an orderly in the library after hours. She told the staff on her ward and nothing was done about it. The rape still affects her to this day.
I used to go downstairs and down the tunnel to get my hair done one a week by the hairdressers. There was big room with lots of chairs and mirrors. I felt better when I got my hair done. It gave me a boost that I often needed. The hairdressers were kind and never judged me. I liked to talk and we had many good chats and a few laughs at the hairdressing parlour.
We had a few excursions outside the hospital. I remember going to see a play at a Brockville high school called the "South Pacific". The acting was good. I had a good time and that is one of the few good memories I have from my days of being incarcerated at the Brockville PsychiatricHospital. We had dances in one of the buildings. No booze of course. Someone played records and then you would be asked to dance by one of your peers. I was so heavily medicated at the time I don't remember the dances very well. I just remember a haze of cigarette smoke over the dance floor and loud music blasting into my ears.
A new team of mental health showed up on our ward. There was a new student psychologist, and an occupational therapist in training. The psychologist had me and some of me peers go into a small room for group therapy. You would sit in a circle and then one of my peers was to open up a discussion. Anyone could say anything they wanted. Whenever anyone asked me to speak up, I would just sit there and cry. I would not commuicate with the group. The male psychologist suggested that I meet him alone in one of the rooms for a one to one session. I agreed as I thought I had no choice in the matter. The first few sessions, the psychologist would ask me questions and I would not answer. Finally he said to me "I am going to meet you here every week and I am going to be patient and wait for you to start talking about what is bothering you. There is something bothering you and I want to hear it. You can trust me." I did finally open up to him and told him about my mother physically and mentally abusing my brother and I since we were infants. I told him that my father beat my mother. We met several times in that room. I believe what I told the psychologist was being passed onto my psychiatrist on the ward to Dr. Louis Sipos.
I rarely saw Dr. Sipos for an appointment on the ward. One time I do rememeber going into his office outside the ward entrance door by the elevator. He was a large man with a partly bald head. He had on his desk many little spotted pictures with black dots on a white background. He took a few of these pictures out one by one and asked me to interpret what I saw. This one picture had little black dots all over with no pattern to it. I told Dr. Sipos. "it looks like an artist went wild and threw a black can of paint against a wall". Dr. Sipos. said "very good Suzanne". We chatted for a while and then he told to me to leave his office.
I didn't trust Dr. Sipo as it was he who suggested to my family that I have electroconvulsive therapy (shock treatments) to cure my depression. I told Dr. Sipos. "I don't want to have ECT, it would be like frying my brain like an egg in a frying pan". Dr. Sipos. assured me that the ECT would not damage my brain nor my memory. I did not believe him at all. On the morning I was to have the ECT, I was tired as I did not sleep the night before from being worried about having shock treatment the next morning.
I don't remember this but a peer of mine years later told me who was on the same ward that when the staff came to get me to take me to the room where ECT was given, I kicked and screamed and bit them. The staff had to subdue me. I am not a violent person. I was afraid and I reacted to what I knew was a dangerous procedure. I pushed down on a bed in small room. The ECT machine was a small square steel box with buttons and wires coming out of it. I was given a needle in the arm. I had a rubber stick put in my mouth and then they put this rubber band around my forehead with wires attached to each side of my temples. When I awoke from the ECT, I was put in a wheelchair. I was incoherent. I didn't remember where I was and who my peers were at first. It took me a few days to remember people's names on the ward. I couldn't remember early childhood memories at all.
I was given 4 more ECTs on 4 separate days. After the fifth ECT, I was told I would not receive anymore ECTs because I had had a bad reaction during the last procedure. I had a memory test done at the Ottawa General Hospital at the Neuropsychology ward in 1995. The memory test lasted 8 hours. I was told I had a severe memory loss. I never had any other brain trauma to my head except for ECT. I am living proof of the damage that ECT can do to a person. A few years later, I went to college and had to study twice as hard because I could no longer retain information like I used to. I never had any problems learning anything new before I had ECT. I was an average student with average grades who never had to study or do any homework at all as I had a photographic memory like a zerox machine. I read something once and I remembered it.
I was afraid all the time on Ward H at the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital. I was leary of the staff. I had to watch my back so to speak. I was on a locked ward and anything could have happened to me. I felt helpless on the locked ward like a caged animal wanting to getout of the cage. The longer you are in the locked ward, the more anxious you get to leave the "hellhole" as I called it.
I celebrated my l8th birthday in April in 1973 on Ward H at the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital. What a place to celebrate your l8th birthday is all I can say! My mother bought me some new clothes as I had gained 30 pounds while I was in the locked ward at the Royal Ottawa Hospital. My parents and my brother would visit me once a month at BPH on a weekend as my dad worked as the director of translation for the Department of Customs and Excise in downtown Ottawa next to the Ottawa Public Library. I could see the yellow jeep pulling up to the parking lot from my hospital bedroom window and knew it was my family coming to see me.
I did not cry when my parents and brother left. I had no respect for my parents as they had abused me but I have a lot of love for my brother and did not want him to see me cry so I stayed strong and kept in all my emotions. I would go for a walk outside and find a secluded spot and cry. I did not want my peers to see me cry on the ward either. I had too much pride to show my pain to anyone.
The comradship on the ward is tight. There is an unspoken rule on the ward, don't snitch on your peers. We knew our lives depended on sticking together for support and protection amongst ourselves. We watched out for each other. I did not want to sleep too long at night on the ward. I did not know what the hospital staff would have in store for me the next morning.
I had just received 5 electroshock treatments, ECT or shock treatments as they are called. It was the most terrifying moment of my life when they put you on a white stretcher and tell you to open your mouth as they put a rubber mallet in your mouth and put an elastic tight band on your head and they tell you to "relax". How in the hell can you relax when these people are going to zap your brains with electricity"? I was terrified and angry. I bit and kicked the staff before going into the ECT room. I am not a violent person; I was just reacting to what felt would be abuse and it was. I was scared out my mind as the staff took me into the "ECT room". Like in the movie "One Who Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" starring Jack Nicholson" that is exactly how the ECT was given to me, it was no different from the way it was portrayed in the movie.
I was given an eight hour memory test in 1995 at the Ottawa General Neuropsychology Ward. The outcome of the tests stated that I do have a limited short term memory. Prior to my ECT I had no problems with learning and I could memorize anything with ease and I had to do little studying in school and was second in my class in grade school for 8 years. In high school I was an average student. Now in my day to day tasks, I have to mark everything down and it is not uncommon for me to repeat myself or to forget appointments etc. I have a difficult time to learn anything new. I struggle from day to day living with the after effects of ECT.
ECT is making a big comeback as it is given to many elderly women. Approximately 100,000 people in the US get ECT and about 10,000 people in Canada get ECT yearly. 50,000 ECTs are given in the UK yearly. It is estimated that 1 to 2 million people get ECT yearly.
One of my friends in Ottawa named Gisele called me one day to inform me that her brother Jean was given his 5th ECT at the Royal Ottawa Hospital and was in his early forties and had had a heart condition. He was in his room after the ECT treatment and went into a coma and was then transferred to the neurology ward at the Ottawa Civic Hospital. He did not come out his coma and then was transferred to the Elizabeth Bruyere Centre in Ottawa which is a long term care facility.
Gisele invited me to go with her to visit her brother Jean at the Elizabeth Bruyere Centre in downtown Ottawa. My friend Harry a former lawyer in Ottawa for many years accompanied me. I am glad he did. I needed moral support. We went up the the elevator and walked down the hallway up to Jean's room. Jean was about 20 feet away from us sitting up in a wheelchair. I felt faint as I approached Jean in knowing that it could have been me in the wheelchair as I had had ECT as well. My heart stopped on my last ECT, my 5th ECT. I was revived. The man in front of me down the hallway in a wheelchair was in a coma. I felt like I was going to throw up as I was so shocked to see him like that and it made my legs shake and feel like they were made of jello. I slowly approached Gisele as she spoke softly to her brother Jean. His eyes were open but he did not respond to us and he did not know we were there. His eyes rolled up and down and all over the place. He kept coughing all the time. He had on a sweater and a pair of pants and he had his a pair of glasses.
Jean was in his early forties and was married and had a teenage son. Jean had suffered from depression in the past and that is why he had gone to the Royal Ottawa Hospital. Jean's wife did not want to take any legal action in regard to Jean's medical situation. The family feared he may have been treated poorly in the long term care facility if there as an impending lawsuit. We went up to a room where other patients were sitting all around in a circle, some of them singing. Most of the patients were elderly. Some patients, family and friends sang. Jean sat there with no response coming from his face. I did my best to sing but felt so sad and helpless as I looked at Jean. My heart sank to the floor. We stayed for an hour and then I left. I cried on the bus all the way home.
It was an experience that made me realize I would work very hard withother psychiatric survivors, their families and friends, supporters and other medial staff and mental health professionals who like me want ECT abolished. There is a worldwide movement that is working together to ban ECT. Jean was in a semi-private room. He was curled up like a ball in his bed on one side. His eyes were open but there was no response. Harry my friend who came with me and who was a former lawyer put in hand in front of Jean's face.
I was shocked that Harry did this. Jean's eye did not respond to Harry's gesture. His sister said he could not talk. There were some pictures of Jean before his coma and he was in pictures with his family. He was a good looking man and had a pretty wife. There was a book for visitors to sign and I did and so did Harry.
Gisele would take out her brother Jean in the wheelchair outside the hospital. People would ask what happened to him and Gisele would mention that he had a bad effect after his ECT treatments.
ban ECT ( also known as shock treatments, electroconvulsive therapy and
electroshock treatments, shock) Go to the internet websites for more
info on ECT:
Dr. Peter R. Breggin, a psychiatrist in the USA wrote a book called
"Electroshock: Its Brain-Disabling Effects". Leonard Roy Frank edited a
Jean was in a semi-private room. He was curled up like a ball. His
eyes were open and but there was no response when his sister said hello.
He could not talk, he could not respond to his sister and did not
know we were there visiting him. I was in shock and had to look away.
It was one of the most terrifying moments in my life looking at a peer
of mine who was so badly absued by the psychiatric industry. It tooks
me years to get the courage to write this segment. It stills pains me
as I recall the two visits to see Jean, the man in the coma from having
received ECT otherwise known as shock treatments.
One day, Harry a friend of mine who was a former lawyer in Ottawa for
30 years, walked up to the Elizabeth Bruyere Centre to see Jean. I had
told Harry about Jean. Harry went into Jean's semi private room.
Harry put his hand in front of Jean's eyes and there was no response from
him. Why Harry did this I do not know? It shocked me though.
To see a man in his prime curled up in bed like a ball and not knowing
or recongizing anyone who is visiting him is a scary situation if it is
your first time seeing this. Even though it was my second visit to
see Jean, I could not stomach seeing him anymore in the future. It made
me physically ill to my stomach to see this man in this condition. It
broke my heart and my spirit to some degree for a few months. Nothing
could break my spirit in the past but this was too much for me at the
Jean died a few years later from having deteriorated so much
physically. Gisele told me Jean died and I emotionally shutdown for a month.
Jean's condition could have happened to me when my heart stopped on my
last and fifth ECT treatment. I had used Jean last name on my last website
and the Gisele's wife emailed me and her lawyer said they would bring
me to court if I did not remove his name from my website, so I did.
I had to comply. I can't afford court costs.
I am a strong person but this type of
thing ravished me inside with so much pain it was incredible. My rage
towards the psychiatric industry and those mental health professionals who
know that ECT harms people but yet ECT is making a huge comeback.
Shame on any medical professional who turns a blind eye and says nothing
who knows ECT does harm people.
One famous person who received ECT was the author Ernest Hemingway. He
was depressed and he was given ECT. After having the ECT treatments,
Ernest had difficulty writing anything new. Ernest committed suicide
by taking a gun and shooting himself in his head.
I want mental health professionals to speak out like someone I know in
Ottawa who was a nurse and a psychiatric survivor like myself. She
spoke up about ECT and the harm it does and she got fired at the hospital
in Ottawa where she was working. She had the integrity to stand up
and be counted and not turn a blind eye to the truth about ECT. I commend
her. She is one of my heroes. She showed true courage!
Whistleblowers can remain anonymous and email me in confidence. I need
to know what is really going on out there at the hospitals where ECT
is given. Also how the staff treat psychiatric survivors and what
psychiatric abuses you see going on. Watch and listen and keep notes of
what is going on in your hospitals. Put the name of the hospital, city
and country and what happened. Whistleblowers always welcome. I do not
divulge my sources to no one. My credibility and integrity are my
trademark. Like during the last WWII, the motto that said "loose lips
sink ships" I live by this motto.
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I told the ward H psychiatrist Dr. Sipos that I was afraid of the ECTs
he told me I was going to have. I told Dr. Sipos that I thought the
ECTs would be like frying an egg or my brains and that having the ECT
would not be a good thing for me. Dr. Sipos assured me ECT was safe and
it would help alleviate my severe depression. I protested and told him
I did not want it. He told me I was going to have theECT treatments
and that was his final decision.
I felt helpless and knew I had no choice in the matter. I had no one
to call to help me, as I was not told my rights, nor did not know I
could have called a lawyer and was not told their was a mental health
rights advisor anywhere. I doubt BPH had any mental rights advisor to come
to my ward in 1973. I vowed to speak out one day about this barbaric
treatment called ECT and other psychiatric abuses I had suffered.
I was told I was going to have a series of ECT. During the 5th ECT
treatment, my heart stopped and that ended my having anymore ECT
treatments. One of my peers on Ward H, Joan had over 100 ECT treatments over a
period of years. She always seemed to be confused and in a stupor and
had very little patience for anything or anyone. She said she did
not want those ECTs but the doctors seemed to think she needed them.
Joan was a slender woman who was always anxious. Joan smoked one
cigarette after another and paced the floors and hallways on Ward H all day and
night. Joan rarely smiled.
Around 7 a.m. the hospital staff would be talking loudly and all the
lights would go on. The staff would come into your room and get you up.
Then you would line up for your "happy pills". You would line up in
a row while the nurse had a big steel cart with all these white little
paper cups with your dose of medicine. There was a plastic pitcher
full of water. The nurse would watch as you took your pills and asked
you to stick out your tongue to make sure that you did not put the pills
under your tongue.
I felt like one of a group of cows on a farm with no where to go. I
felt like a trapped animal. To this day, I have to get out of the house,
even if I am sick. I can't stand to stay in the house and look at the
white walls in my apartment because it reminds me of my days when I
was locked up on psychiatric wards. I felt like I would climb the walls
at times on the locked wards.
I felt lonely and isolated on the ward. I was never locked up or
confined as a child. I needed to go and and take the long walks I was used
to. I felt humiliated and abused by the staff. I was only a number
to them and not a person.
I was treated like a crazy person who needed help. I was brainwashed
over the years of being psychiatrized into thinking that I was mentally
ill and I needed all this help. I believed there was something wrong
with me because all the psychiatrists (shrinks) said I was "mentally
ill" and I unfortunately got hooked into the vice grips of the psychiatric
My outpatient psychiatrist would see me for about a half hour once
every month and then he would tell me to take my pills and he would see you
next month. I was impressionable as I was only l7 years old when I
was first admitted to the Royal Ottawa Hospital in 1972.
As I believed the psychiatrists' labels (diagnoses) that they so called
put on my forehead. The psychiatrists' bible is the DSM - IV - The
Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Health Disorders. Go to
this website for more info: I believe
this book should be banned.
I don't want to be labelled by anyone. I just want to be me and have
people accept me as I am. I talk quickly, I am verbose and I can do a
lot of things in one day. Labels are destructive. I started to
identify myself by my label. One day I walked into my gynecologist's
office and said "Hello, I am Sue Clark and I am a schizophrenic". The
receptionist looked shocked by what I said. My brother, my boyfriend, my
friends, and my family doctor and supporters accept me as I am and I am
grateful for that. I could not have it any other way.
I complied and took the medications that the psychiatrists game me and
did not question the treatments I had until many years later. I was a
good patient for awhile until I got angry and then I started to rebel on
the wards, by yelling and shouting and telling the staff what I
thought of them and psychiatry. I would yell out and say things like "Why
are you torturing me?" "I am not nuts, my mother is and she should be
locked up here, not me", "Get me out of this hellhole now", "I am gonna
write about his one day you know" "I hate this place", "Someone,
anyone "HELP ME GET OUT OF HERE NOW" I would sob loudly for hours and
I call the pharmaceutical companies the whores of psychiatry and
psychiatrists are their pimps. There is mega bucks going on with all the
smooth talking salesmen with the fancy briefcase talking to Dr. X. that
this such and such pill is good for this type of psychiatric diagnoses
because it does this and will alleviate depression and the psychbabble
and the lies go on and on. It is disgusting to think that these rich
pharmaceutical companies have no conscience as long as their bank accounts
are well padded and their profits soar every year. I call it the root
of evil for sure at whose expense!
I don't believe people need psychiatric drugs to numb their pain but
they need to have their experiences validated, they need to be treated
with respect. People need to have proper housing, 3 good meals a day,
somewhere to go where someone knows their name, friends who care about
them, and community support systems that will treat them an an adult and
not like a child and include them in the designing of these programs.
People need a crisis line that does not have a busy signal, people need
a 24 hour drop in where they can have a cup of coffee, chat with an
understanding crisis worker who doe not judge them. People need group
homes where they can feel safe and trust the staff and build a healthy
and nuturing life for themselves.
They need family doctors who do not dish out nerve pills every time
someone has a crisis or is in grief, but takes the time to talk to them
and know everyone has to go through grief at some time.
The family doctors needs to undersand depresion is part of grief, and
that a crisis can happen from time to time and it does not mean the
person cannot cope, it means for that time the person needs more support.
Caring friends got me through some rough patches in my life. My
brother has always been there for me. I can call him and confide in him and
he always tells me what I need to hear, not what I want to hear. He is
honest and he knows me well. My brother and I are close. He is a
good man and I am proud that he is my brother. He has integrity. He has
my love and respect.
My brother saved my life a few times when I was a teenager when my
mother tried to strangle me to death. He jumped on my mother and pulled
her off me. Thank god Chris was there at the time my mother abused me.
Every time I wanted to get off the psychiatric drugs, my psychiatrist
at the time would say to me "Suzanne, don't get off your medicine,
because you know in the past you get suicidal and if you do that we will
have to send you back to the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital. I was
afraid of this real threat and complied with taking my medication. For
years I was afraid to even think of getting off the medications.
This is a way some psychiatrists at the Royal Ottawa Hospital treated
many of their patients with the impending threat of being sent 60 miles
from Ottawa to the Brockville Psychiatric ''hellhole" hospital. I knew
of friends who were threatened the same way I was. This affected my
psyche. This threat was real and I was terrified of going back to BPH.
My experience at BPH left me with nightmares for years.
About 10 years ago, a mother called me and wanted me to advocate for
her son who was at the Brockville Psychiatric Hospital (BPH) on Ward H
where I had been locked up so many years before. I hesitated but I
agreed to go to BPH on the bus that Canadian Mental Health Association in
Ottawa (CMHA) had going up to BPH a few times a month.
The mother told me her son who had co-ordination problems and
behavioural problems was locked up on BPH. He was not a violent person. The
son was slow at taking a shower and one day a Ward H orderly kicked him
as he was taking a shower. Other patients had bullied him on Ward H.
We arrived at BPH. The bus rolled into the massive grounds of the
hospital. It took one hour by bus from Ottawa to get to BPH. The bus
rolled into the front entrance of the hospital and we were told by the bus
driver to be at the front entrance by 3 p.m. for the drive back to
The woman and I walked around the main building and around to the
building housing Wards G, H, and K. I walked up the stairs after many years
and I felt a lump in my throat as panic consumed me. I was thinking
it was 1973 again and I was a patient again at BPH. It was a though
time had stopped. I hesitated going up the stairs and into the front
entrance door of the building. The memories starting to pour into my mind
as to what happened to me. Deja-vu.
The woman asked me if was ok, I guess my face had drained out of its
color and gone white for a few seconds. I said I was alright and then we
proceeded up the elevator to Ward H. I got off the elevator and
turned to the right and faced the locked door to Ward H. My head starting
to feel like it was swaying and I felt buzzing in my ears. I suddenly
felt very anxious. I could not knock on the door right away. It was
knowing that once you went into the ward, the door would lock behind you.
The feeling of having been locked up never goes away when you approach
another locked ward or door in the future. I finally got up the
courage and I knocked on the ward H door and a nurse came to open the door
and asked us our names and who we were visiting. We told the nurse
the nature of our business was to visit this woman's son. I crossed that
line between freedom and being locked up, an imaginery line but a real
one for me as the door opened.
As I looked around the ward, I noticed that the rooms had full walls up
to the ceiling and doors to their rooms and the bathrooms had been
renovated. I wonder if public showers were still the norm where you would
stand naked in front of the staff and your peers with shower stalls
with no curtains. I did not ask. That memory was and is still too
painful when I think about it to this day.
The man in question we were visiting was in his late teens and had
problems with his co-ordination as he walked. When we could sit alone
with him he told us the guard kicked him because he was taking too long to
take a shower. He told us some of his peers made fun of his
disabilities. His speech was somewhat slurred by the heavy doses of medication
the staff were giving him. The mother wanted her son to be
transferred to the Royal Ottawa Hospital where her son could be closer to her.
I wanted to advocate for her son that day but she declined as she
feared what the staff would do to her son if the word got out he was being
abused by one male orderly. She was scared and I had to respect her
right. It was a hard choice for me not to say anything, but she was the
man's next of kin. I felt helpless knowing we would be leaving the man
behind on the locked ward on Ward H. I felt this man's safety was in
The staff were pleasant to us on the ward as we were visiting the young
man. The woman hugged her son good-bye and I had a lump in my throat
and had to turn around and walk away, it was too much for me to see. I
wanted to take out the young man off the ward and take him home to
Ottawa on the bus with his mother.In fact I felt like I wanted to unlock
the door to Ward H and let out all my peers and yell "here is your
freedom to go, get out and run as fast as you can". I knew I could not
have done that but in my mind I wished I could have.
The mother and I walked up to the main entrance of BPH. The woman was
crying and I tried to console her. She told me I could call the staff
and advocate for her son the following week. I agreed. We had a sad
ride home as the woman looked depressed and withdrawn. I did not
know what to say to her, what to say to someone who is in that situation.
I did my best not to show her my frustration at not being able to
advocate on the man's behalf that afternoon. I had to keep my dignity
in tack and I looked outside the window of the bus as it rolled on the
highway back to Ottawa.
We rolled into Ottawa and we said our good-byes. The next week she
called me and told me she wanted to go back to BPH in the next few weeks.
We did and I did advocate on the ward for her son. The mother did
not want to be directly involved while I advocated, she gave me
permission to speak on her behalf.
I advocated for the son on Ward H. The nurse who I spoke to looked
shocked and especially when I told her I was a former patient on ward H
and that I was an advocate. It was like the nursse looked at me as if to
say "you're not well enough to have any credibility here, lady, cause
you were a patient here." I told her about the young man complaining
about being kicked in the shower by an orderly and told her what the
orderly looked like. The young man did not remember the orderly's name.
The nurses's face turned red and I looked her straight in the eye
and told her "I want this abuse to stop or legal action may be taken by
the family". The nurse stammered and said she would look into the
matter and then said she would be very surprised if any abuse did occur on
Ward H. I stood up and left the little ward office. A nurse opened the
ward door and locked it behind me. I heard a 'click' as the door was
locked and then I went down the elevator to the main floor.
I told the mother what I had said about her son and the incident that
happened to him. The mother was not surprised.
I recall one of my peers who I had met many years later in Ottawa. She
had been a patient before 1972 at BPH. An orderly took her down to
the little library way down in the tunnel and raped her. She told the
staff on one of the wards of BPH and no one took her accusations
seriously. No one called the police. Nothing was done about it.
I was fortunate that two men on my ward took me under their wing to
protect me. I was naive and did not know that such things happened in a
I was walking down in the tunnel that connected all the wards. You
followed the yellow line like in the movie "Wizard of Oz" follow the yellow
brick road. One day out of the blue someone called my name and I
turned around and there was my Aunt Theresa. I was stunned and shocked.
My aunt was my father's brother's Gerry's wife.
My uncle Gerry had some serious emotional problems. Rumour had it he
was molesting his teenage daughters, Louise and Diane and he had hookers
coming into his home in Ottawa and he was taking pictures of them.
Uncle Gerry was a very unstable person and could not keep a job. He
took odd jobs and painted Christmas decorations on garage windows and was
somewhat of an artist. He had to move frequently as he did not pay the
rent and was on the run with is family a lot.
Sometimes he and his family of four kids and wife lived in small
trailer camper. My dad on the otherhand was always financially responsible
and put three square meals on the table and always paid the rent and
saved money. The two brothers were totally different. My father did not
molest me or my brother. My father always kept his jobs and climbed
the ladder and was a go-getter.
My aunt told me Louise one of her daughters left home and that only
Michael the baby was left and that her husband Uncle Gerry was going to
give him up to adoption. Aunt Theresa had a nervous breakdown as a
result of Michael being sent to Children's Aid to be adopted.
Aunt Theresa met a nice man called "Joe" on one of the wards who would
become her future husband a few years later. It seemed to me that BPH
was beginning to look like a family affair and that was scary. Who
else from the family was going to come into BPH as a patient?
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