7 days ago, I learned that a very close friend lost a family member in the most shocking and terrible way. I visited their home, and sympathised with them in their grief and pain. The loss is severe, the victim was a wonderful, kind, vibrant and beautiful person who appeared to have been doing really well recently. It has given us all cause to question the current provision of psychiatric services in this province.
The following morning, Gordon and I flew out to Malaga in southern Spain for a 3 day holiday, booked months ago for his birthday. We really needed that time together. Both of us were low and worn out by the past few months, and our time away was wonderful and rejuvenating. I was upset to hear when we returned, that Duncan, who with the other children had been cared for by their wonderful grandparents, had been a bit unwell and miserable.
Yesterday I spent a while with Duncan curled up on my lap, making up for lost cuddle time, just browsing my favourite blogs and web sites and catching up on the latest news. It made for dispiriting reading.
I read on Abfh blog, of the NYU 'Ransom notes' campaign. It appears to be an 'awareness' raising exercise by the Child Study Centre of the university, to highlight the impact of mental illness on children. That might be worth doing, but this is not the campaign to do it. This is disgusting, degrading, inaccurate and dehumanising. The autism 'ransom note' that they intend to splash all over New York and put in magazines and newspapers, says,
'We have your son. We will make sure he will no longer be able to care for himself or interact socially as long as he lives.'
How can anyone think that such a statement on a billboard will benefit a single autistic person or their family? How would I like to explain that message to any of my children? I pity the autistic people who will face such a sentiment in huge letters as they go about their city. What fear and ignorance it inspires. They have similarly awful notes on other conditions too; bulimia, OCD. depression, Aspergers and ADHD.
There is a petition that I would encourage anyone who reads this to sign. It consists of a well composed and thoughtful letter endorsed by several disability organisations, and addressing the justifiable objections to this campaign.
Via Autism Vox, I read the New York Times article about the controversy. The center’s founder and director, Dr. Harold S. Koplewicz, is quoted as saying, 'Children’s mental disorders are truly the last great public health problem that has been left unaddressed.
He went on to say (in the NYT article),
'While we knew the campaign was edgy and we knew it would be harsh and upsetting, the facts of mental illness are even more upsetting.
'I am disappointed. I thought the people we’d be arguing with are the people who believe psychiatric illness doesn’t exist or those who believe children are being overmedicated.'
'I thought we’d be fighting ignorance. I didn’t think we’d be fighting adult patients or the parents of patients whose feelings have been hurt.'
While there clearly needs to be more understanding of childhood mental health issues, this campaign only serves to increase fear, stigmatisation, ignorance and misunderstanding. This is not about something as nebulous and unimportant as 'hurt feelings' and I don't know why he considers those of us opposing the form of the campaign, as 'fighting' them. We just want to come to a resolution.