Reports of electroshock therapy cause concern regarding quality of Turkey’s mental health facilities

Nuray Pehlivan / DUVAR IZMIR

Following the testimony of one patient who witnessed numerous instances of electroshock therapy being performed on other patients without their consent in a Turkish state mental health facility, issues regarding health, safety and quality of treatment in these facilities have come under scrutiny.

In an interview with Duvar English, former patient Ömer Burçin Özkişi detailed the harrowing experiences he witnessed and endured at a state mental health facility in the province of Manisa, where he was voluntarily committed for 15 days in 2015 for bipolar treatment.

“I’m thankful for my doctor for not performing electroshock therapy on me. But most of the patients got their share of it. I witnessed it myself. Within the time I stayed there, I know that there were patients who entered electroshock therapy 5-6 times,” Özkişi said.

“There was nothing of the sort. They said electroshock was going to be conducted and the patient was brought in. Most of them did not want this. Who would want it anyway! I know that a friend of mine who has bipolar disorder was given electroshock therapy without their consent. They are still cursing it. Let’s assume that consent was obtained, most of the time they were under the influence of medications so I don’t know how healthy it was. At the end of the day, if they wanted to fabricate a procedure they would do so,” Özkişi said when he was asked if doctors received consent from patients who underwent electroshock therapy.

According to Özkişi, the Manisa mental health hospital that he stayed in was ridden with inhumane conditions. Describing the facility as a “storage unit,” he said he stayed in a dormitory with 80 other people, some of whom had criminal records. Patients were only allowed to shower twice a week for two to three minutes at a time, and were forced to use the same soap. He said he witnessed a disabled, mute eleven-year old being molested by other patients.

“Forget about those who are ill, if a healthy person stayed there for 15 days, they would not emerge from there in a healthy state. What happens there has nothing to do with treatment and humane conditions are nonexistent. It’s like a shelter where people squeezed inside a narrow space are given food and pills. When I was picked up on the day I left, I sobbed in front of the gate,” Özkişi said.

Area medical professionals admit that there are serious issues plaguing the mental health facilities: “I’ve read about what our patient experienced. You can be sure that there are even worse stories than this. We admit that the conditions are poor, and that there are serious problems concerning mental health treatment services. However the main problem is that the state has no solution regarding this issue,” Manisa Chamber of Doctors President Sahut Duran told Duvar English.

“First and foremost, we don’t have laws pertaining to mental health. Even in certain African countries there are mental health laws but not in our country. This is why our standards don’t improve,” Duran said, adding that the mental health services are being administered in hospitals that “recall the Middle Ages.”