A Reminder of an Earlier Era

This device was used to deliver electroconvulsive therapy to psychiatric patients during the 1940s and 1950s, to treat them for a wide variety of disorders. Now it’s on display at the Long Island Psychiatric Museum in Brentwood, N.Y., which I recently visited while researching the life of an artist who’d spent some time in a state hospital during that era. Electroconvulsive therapy is still occasionally used to treat severe depression that doesn’t respond to medication, but today’s machines are far more sophisticated and physicians have a better understanding of how to administer the therapy than they did 70 years ago, lessening the risk of side effects such as permanent memory loss and confusion. Seeing this rudimentary device, I couldn’t help but feel sad for the earlier group of patients.ECT_closeup_resized



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