Objectives: Electroconvulsive therapy (ECT) is one of the most controversial psychiatric treatments of the modern era. Few studies have used validated scales to examine attitudes and knowledge regarding ECT in lay people. We examined attitudes, knowledge and experience of ECT using standardised questionnaires in Irish lay people, and compared the present results with the findings from a similar study reported over 25 years previously.
Methods: A total of 103 lay people were recruited from a variety of settings and completed a questionnaire. Data were analysed using independent samples t-tests, χ2 tests and Pearson correlations.
Results: Attitudes to ECT among Irish lay people are negative and knowledge of the treatment is poor. A significant correlation (r = 0.32) was found between knowledge and attitudes, with higher levels of knowledge associated with more positive attitudes. People with relatives who experienced ECT had a significantly higher ECT knowledge than the people without such relatives (p < 0.05).
Conclusion: Results confirmed previous findings and revealed novel statistically significant factors that contributed to attitudes towards ECT. Further replications are required to examine the findings' robustness and the relationship between attitudes, knowledge and experience. Such research can help increase the understanding of ECT and remove the stigmatisation associated with ECT. Mental health education programmes should consider the relation between knowledge and attitudes to better inform programme focus and content.