An outspoken champion of mental wellness, Julie Hersh speaks openly about her experiences with electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) and how the treatment has benefited her. Julie Hersh has discussed ECT on a variety of outlets, including the popular Dr. Oz Show.
Despite ECT’s high effectiveness rate (often cited as 80% as compared to 30% for antidepressants), many patients who might benefit from ECT are not offered the procedure. ECT has been widely vilified in film and in literature because of its early history. Several decades ago, ECT was administered without anesthesia or muscle relaxants, creating a frightening image of a victimized patient thrashing about. Hersh contends this image persists because it’s good theater, but today’s reality is dramatically different. Patients, under anesthesia, don’t experience any pain. Although some negative side effects may occur, often the benefits of recovery often far outweigh the side effects.
Individuals interested in Julie Hersh’s experiences with ECT can learn more on her blog, Struck by Living, found at
A prominent mental health advocate, Julie Hersh experienced her first depressive episode during her first year as a student at the University of Notre Dame. Many young students enter college with fears of failure or putting on the dreaded “freshman 15,” but few understand the importance of actively maintaining mental health. Julie Hersh admits that depression or other forms of mental illness were never on her mind until her depressive episode. Had she been aware of the dangers, she believes she could have mitigated her struggle—or even avoided it altogether. While Hersh stresses that no panacea exists for mental illness, the following approaches may help college freshmen avoid serious problems.
-Take care of yourself physically. This entails getting a minimum amount of sleep, ensuring proper nutrition with the help of multivitamins, and exercising regularly.
-Mentally stimulate yourself. Balance your schedule with classes you find personally engaging. Students who take electives in areas they are passionate about often perform better in their required courses.
-Strike a careful balance in relationships. When individuals invest all their time in a significant other, a breakup can prove devastating.
-Research and understand the symptoms of depression and mental illness. This enables students to recognize symptoms in themselves and their friends and sets them up to proactively deal with potential problems.
Julie Hersh is the author of Struck by Living, in which she deals honestly and openly with her struggles with depression. After publishing the book, she toured and spoke about her work. During talks, attendees frequently asked whether Hersh attributes her depression to biochemistry or environment. But Hersh points out that the line between these factors is blurred. After all, every thought and reaction to our environment causes a chemical and electrical reaction in the brain. In a sense, biochemistry is a result of environment, and the two remain virtually inseparable in terms of mental health.
To handle her depression, Julie Hersh relies on a personal system that allows her to control both biochemistry and environment. She takes an antidepressant to manage biochemical issues but also emphasizes the role that stress reduction, exercise, and sleep have played in achieving mental stability. For mental health, individuals must realize that effective treatment addresses the problem from all perspectives, not just one. To that end, treatment must be individually tailored to each person’s own biochemistry and environment.
A mental health advocate, speaker, and author, Julie Hersh often relays the story of why she rejected medication against her psychiatrist’s direction. Despite a life-threatening episode with depression in 2001 that required electroconvulsive therapy(ECT)for treatment, four years of good health convinced her she no longer needed an antidepressant. Hersh, like so many who suffer from chronic illness, did not want to think in terms of lifelong depression management, but rather in terms of a cure. Furthermore, she thought she had modified her behavior and conquered the disease. Unfortunately, Ms. Hersh relapsed two years later, in such an intense manner that she required hospitalization.
Too often, individuals reject medication because they see mental illness as a defect of character as opposed to an functional issue with the brain. Various forms of psychotherapy can assist people in overcoming depression, but there will be a segment of the population who can reach the optimum level of health with the assistance of medication as well. Instead of condemning those who take medication as weak in character, we should think of medication as a tool to create the best mental environment. Think of plants: some need a dry, sunny climate, while others grow best in a rich, rainy environment. These plants are neither superior or inferior, they are simply different. Just as some of the most beautiful blossoms require the right type of fertilizer or soil, some brains require medication to reach their full potential.