Whose Planet Is It Anyway?

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Mission Accomplished?

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win." — Gandhi

Although some folks were upset by the insensitive tone of the mass e-mail sent by Dr. Harold Koplewicz to everyone who complained about the Ransom Notes ads, I view it as a positive sign that the NYU Child Study Center took less than a week to advance from the ignoring us stage to the laughing at us stage. (By way of contrast, it took Autism Speaks more than a year to realize that they couldn't just ignore us in the hope that we would all go away.)

In his letter, Dr. Koplewicz has this to say:

"Ransom Notes" may be shocking to some, but so are the statistics: suicide is the third leading cause of death among young people ages 15 to 24, and serious emotional problems affect one out of 10 young people, most of whom do not get help. The strong response to this campaign is evidence that our approach is working. We acknowledge the challenges faced by individuals with these disorders and their families. We hope to both generate a national dialogue that will end the stigma surrounding childhood psychiatric disorders and advance the science, giving children the help they need and deserve. We want this campaign to be a wake up call. Please join the dialogue.

Here's a strategic point to ponder: The fact that Dr. Koplewicz acted so quickly to compose a mass response to our letters is a clear indication that we have deluged him (and other influential people at NYU) with enough e-mail, snail mail, faxes, phone calls, etc., to make him feel very uncomfortable. Otherwise, he probably wouldn't have bothered to answer us at all. That means we're doing a great job, people, and we need to keep the heat on—and, if possible, turn it up a notch or two.

If you have already written a letter of complaint to NYU, send another one to make sure they clearly understand that you have no intention of taking crap like "[t]he strong response to this campaign is evidence that our approach is working" for an answer. It looks like Dr. Koplewicz has the mindset that one can't make an omelet without breaking a few eggs—or, in this case, that one can't effectively advertise mental health services for children unless one first destroys the hopes, dreams, and spirits of said children and induces mass panic and vicious prejudice by means of misleading and sensationalistic ads.

The Autistic Self-Advocacy Network has made contact information available for various people associated with NYU and the Ransom Notes ads. (I suggest copying Dr. Koplewicz on all letters sent to anyone concerning the Ransom Notes ads, so that he can clearly see the extent of the worldwide revulsion these ads have caused.)

Also, tell your relatives and friends about NYU's ads and ask them to send protest letters as well. Write about these disgusting ads on your blog and on whatever forums you visit. If you know anyone in the media, either in the New York area or nationally, ask them to cover the story. Contact disability rights groups and anti-stigma campaigns such as NAMI's Stigma Busters. If you know any NYU alumni, ask them to inform the university that it won't get another dime of donations from them until it pulls the ads and issues a public apology.

We'll just see how long Dr. Koplewicz continues to put up a brave front and pretend that widespread public outrage is "evidence that [his] approach is working."

As Barack Obama mentioned not long ago, in reference to a certain overconfident opponent—some folks have made the mistake of declaring "Mission Accomplished" a little too soon.

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  • Unfortunately this stuff sounds like a NAMI campaign. They're kind of a "caretaker" lobby group...with the attitude of "It's not OK to talk bad about the mentally ill unless *WE* do it".

    But hey, if someone can get them to deluge, the better for us.

    The Depression Bipolar Support Alliance, though, THEY might be a good ally. And grassroots stuff among the online 'mentally interesting' communities...

    By Blogger Neurodivergent K, at 2:32 AM  

  • NAMI, as one of the biggest proponents of forced treatment, forced drugging, and forced institutionalization, is probably not an organization with which we want to ally ourselves.

    By Blogger fledchen, at 10:36 AM  

  • I found that Richard Schaps is President/CEO of Van Wagner and on Child Study Center's board. Van Wagner is giving (and will continue to give) free kiosk and billboard ad space to Child Study Center, unless we convince him otherwise. Contact him asap at:
    rschaps@vanwagner.com and cc robert.grossman@nyumc.org (Koplewitz's boss).

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:02 AM  

  • Free ad space? Everything these people are doing is free of consequeces at this point.

    NAMI has taken outrageous liberties at the expense of those they claim to allies of and supporting. They absolutly represent the "caretaker" veiws and approaches (as Kassianne described very well) and they continue to go practically unchallenged.

    Groups like this that continue to act in irresponsible ways(to say the least) that are acting in ways that are not at all in the best interest of the people they claim to be supporting being unchallaged has lead to how outrageous this "Ransom" campaign is now acting.

    By Blogger Ed, at 11:34 AM  

  • It's pretty unbelievable that the doctor would interpret criticism of his methods as evidence that the campaign is "working." (Never mind that the people offended by the campaign didn't need to be made "aware" of these conditions in the first place.) It scares me that so many people think that if you're doing an "awareness" campaign, it doesn't matter what you make people think so long as they're "aware."

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 11:55 AM  

  • Kassiane, Fledchen and Ed: Yeah, I'm not a fan of NAMI either, but if we can get them to complain about the ads, that might turn out to be useful.

    Anonymous: I agree with you, Schaps and Grossman definitely need to be included as recipients of any and all protest letters.

    Sarah: He sounds so much like George Bush trying to spin Iraq as a success, it's way scary.

    By Blogger abfh, at 3:07 PM  

  • Somehow, I missed getting this response to mine....oh well, maybe my email was intelligent and decided it was spam....

    My response:

    As a person with Aspergers and with 4 kids on the spectrum who are
    doing quite well, thank you, without making any doctors or programs
    wealthy, I find your "ransom notes" campaign to be offensive,
    ridiculous, and disproportionate, playing on uneducated folks' worst
    fears. In point of fact, ADHD, ASDs and several others of the
    "disorders" you claim are vastly overdiagnosed, and especially so
    since excess school funding has been available for them.

    None of my kids are being held ransom, nor am I. I would not ever
    want to be "typical" though I believe that the vast majority of
    spectrumites suffer bullying at the hands of ill-socialized "typical"
    people, including many members of the medical and psychological
    professions (so called). I believe that your funds would be far
    better spent in conducting acceptance and anti-bullying campaigns
    than in further demonizing those of us who have much to contribute to
    society and have been abused far too often in the name of "treatment"
    and by supposedly "normal" children and adults who are, in my opinion,
    merely undiagnosed sociopaths.

    Jane in MN

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 6:33 PM  

  • The 'contact information'-link seems to be down...

    By Anonymous Anonymous, at 4:33 AM  

  • The link seems fine now.

    I did a little more googling and discovered that NAMI has praised Koplewicz for his past efforts to take the stigma off, you guessed it, parents. Gah. Looks like y'all are right that they won't be any help whatsoever.

    By Blogger abfh, at 10:49 AM  

  • Hmm, I just noticed this page on Mental Illness Watch, which says that NAMI claims to be "looking into the issue."

    By Blogger abfh, at 5:53 PM  

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