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Healthy Skepticism Library item: 12219

Warning: This library includes all items relevant to health product marketing that we are aware of regardless of quality. Often we do not agree with all or part of the contents.


Publication type: news

Boyle C.
Psych groups' fury over 'ransom' ads
New York Daily News 2007 Dec 15

Full text:

The words are scrawled in thick black ink and spell out a parent’s worst nightmare: “WE HAVE YOUR SON.”

Others are typed or cut from the pages of a magazine but all contain the same harrowing message: “This is only the beginning . . . Ignore this and your kid will pay.”

These “ransom notes” are being plastered all over town as part of a new ad campaign about the dangers of psychiatric disorders like autism, attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder and Asperger’s syndrome. They are causing outrage among many of the groups they are designed to represent – prompting parents and disability advocates to demand they be taken down.

“I was offended. It’s not a helpful way to think about a disorder,” said Kristina Chew, who has a 10-year-old son with autism. “It makes you feel like there’s some sort of criminal element to the disorder.”

“The child has not been ‘taken,’ they just need a little extra help,” said Melissa Ramirez, 26, who has a cousin with autism. “It’s basically showing [parents] they have no control over their child. It’s inappropriate.”

The ad campaign is being rolled out over the next four months by the NYU Child Study Center, which says the posters are designed to highlight the plight of children who suffer from undiagnosed or untreated psychiatric problems.

“I understand some people’s feelings are hurt. For that, I apologize. It was never our intention to offend or insult anyone,” said Dr.Harold Koplewicz, founder and director of the Child Study Center, who says he has also received e-mails praising the campaign.

“It’s harsh and edgy and shocking but I don’t think it’s nearly as shocking as the diseases themselves, and the lack of treatment,” he said. “It’s time for psychotic disorders to be equal to physical disorders.”

More than 200 ads will appear on construction sites and kiosks across the city. Eleven billboards will display the shocking messages and a handful of newspapers, magazines and Web sites will print the ads, designed for free by the BBDO agency.

Disability advocates including Not Dead Yet and the Autism Acceptance Project have united in protest.

“There needs to be recognition that not all attention is good attention,” said Ari Ne’eman, president of the Autistic Self Advocacy Network who suffers from Asperger’s syndrome.

“The message that this campaign is sending, specifically that children with disabilities are shells, that somehow we have had our true selves stolen away or kidnapped … is one that has a lot of terrible consequences.”


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