Michael Dukakis, the 1988 Democratic nominee for president, speaks with students and associates of Kirkland house on Wednesday night.
Speaking at Kirkland House at an event Wednesday night, Katharine D. Dukakis, alongside with her husband, former governor Michael S. Dukakis '60, called for an increased awareness to the benefits of electroconvulsive therapy, or ECT.
“I’m not sure I would be here if it were not for ECT,” said Mrs. Dukakis, who is also the author of the book “Shock: The Healing Power of Electroconvulsive Therapy.”
After seventeen years battling severe depression and alcoholism, Dukakis said ECT was the only treatment that managed to change her life.
Mrs. Dukakis said ECT—a therapeutic treatment that entails stimulation of the brain by an electric current—brought “complete relief” from her ongoing symptoms of depression.
In pushing for greater awareness of what she calls “the most successful treatment for depression there is,” Mrs. Dukakis also said she wanted to address the public stigma surrounding ECT.
She said that most people are not aware of the therapy and that it is therefore largely unknown.
While Mr. Dukakis said he hopes his wife’s success story with ECT could help others struggling with depression, he also added that millions of Americans may not have access to treatment of the quality that she received.
“You’d be disappointed with me if I didn’t suggest that there’s a political lesson here,” he said. “Quality mental health care is something that every American in this day and age should have.”
Many attendees said they found Mrs. Dukakis’s speech to be educational.
“I didn’t realize ECT was such an effective [treatment],” Amy M. Yin ’14 said. “I didn’t realize it was painless.”
Simon M. Thompson ’14 said that Mrs. Dukakis’s story was particularly thought-provoking given the recent push for mental health care reform on campus.
“We need to talk more honestly and openly about mental health on campus, especially since it’s an important issue that often stays in the shadows at Harvard,” said Thompson, who is also president of the Harvard College Democrats.
When asked about her opinions regarding mental health on college campuses, Mrs. Dukakis said that students sometimes find it difficult to seek help, but that “doesn’t have to happen.”
“It can make such a difference in one’s life to get this kind of help,” she said.
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