Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Psychology


Faculty of Community Services, Education and Social Sciences

First Advisor

Dr Deirdre Drake

Second Advisor

Dr Alex Xiao


Health care professionals have debated the use and effects of electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) for more than 65 years. Yet, the attitudes towards, and knowledge about, ECT have not been thoroughly researched within the Australian community. There is also little empirical research documenting ECT recipient characteristics, the number of ECT administrations and the number of patients treated. This study aimed to develop an Australian perspective on: (1) the level of Public knowledge about and attitudes towards ECT and (2) the practice of ECT. The objectives were achieved through the development of questionnaires, and the distribution of these questionnaires to the public to survey knowledge about and attitudes towards ECT. The Mental Health Information System (MHIS) together with data of some State psychiatric hospitals, was examined in order to estimate the characteristics of ECT recipients, and the frequency of the practice. Results from 379 questionnaires indicated that more than 60% of respondents have some knowledge about the main aspects of ECT. Furthermore, participants were generally opposed to the use of ECT on individuals with psychosocial issues; children; and those who refuse to have ECT. This study showed that public perceptions of ECT were mainly negative. Furthermore, this thesis revealed that most WA ECT recipients were adult females who were diagnosed with affective disorders. ECT usage appeared to be a constant proportion of the psychiatric population in WA over a five-year period, although the number of ECT recipients rose dramatically each year. The findings of this thesis suggested that clinicians should ensure that individuals recommended for ECT are at least knowledgeable about basic ECT processes and their implications. With this basic awareness, individuals would then be able to give informed consent. Another recommendation was that a more comprehensive State ECT register be created. This would allow more accurate estimations of the number of ECT administrations in future, and facilitate more effective and efficient monitoring of ECT practice. Overall, it was anticipated that the result of this thesis would contribute towards the prescribing practice of clinicians, and direct mental health education programmers, researchers and policy makers.

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Psychology Commons