The images below are fake ransom notes designed to encourage parents to get their children into treatment for autism, obsessive-compulsive disorder, asperger syndrome, and attention deficit and hyperactivity disorder (click image to enlarge). They were commissioned by the New York University Child Study Center, but quickly attracted enough outrage that the campaign was abandoned (see a summary of the controversy at Mental Illness Watch). They are interesting to me as a sociologist because of the way they construct mental illness (like a kidnapper who steals your child… so the child you have is not your “real” child), pharmaceuticals (the only way to get your real child back), and parenting (you are a bad parent if you don’t do what the experts tell you). It’s fascinating the way they use threats to “help” (“ignore this and your kid will pay,”this is only the beginning,” and “It’s up to you now”).

Text: We have your son. We will make sure he will not be able to care for himself or interact socially as long as he lives. This is only the beginning. -Autism

Text: We have your daughter. We are making her wash her hands until they are raw, every day. This is only the beginning. -OCD

Text: We have your son. We are destroying his ability for social interaction and driving him into a life of complete isolation. It’s up to you now. -Asperger Syndrome

Text: We are in possession of your son. We are making him squirm and fidget until he is a detriment to himself and those around him. Ignore this and your kid will pay. -ADHD