Leading autism charity Autistica is drawing attention to the reality of autistic people in mental health units with a series of striking OOH ads highlighting the “archaic” way people with autism are treated.
Developed by Ogilvy Health UK and its neurodiversity network ReWired, the campaign is part of a drive to ‘break the cycle’ for autistic people, highlighting that more than 60% of children and adults in mental health units have an autism diagnosis.
It also calls on the UK government to deliver its 2021 Autism Strategy to better support people with autism, as blanket responses during moments of crisis – such as being sectioned under the Mental Health Act – aren’t effective.
“The archaic way in which people with autism are treated through the mental health act is creating a systemic distress to thousands in the UK,” said Ogilvy Health UK executive creative director, John McPartland.
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“We wanted this work to both shock and enlighten the public about this hidden horror in our system. It was vital that we tackled the subject carefully, and with as much authenticity as possible, which is why all of the campaign stems from real experiences.”
The hard-hitting illustrations were created by autistic artist Lira de Medeiros of Lightfarm Studios, who
drew on a number of first-hand experiences to create the designs, using words such as frustrated, afraid, and misunderstood. The images also include backgrounds made from scraps from old asylum papers to highlight the lack of progress.
Autistic people are forced to wait years for a diagnosis and are six times more likely to attempt suicide than their peers. The noise and chaos of mental health units can make autistic people more distressed, and with a lack of understanding and personalised care, their mental health often worsens.
Ogilvy Rewired founder and chair Gabriella Field commented: “As a collective of neurodivergent individuals and allies, we are thrilled to create work specifically for our community.
“We believe in empowering neurodivergent individuals to share their unique perspectives and narratives, in this case, leveraging our creative talents to make a meaningful impact in healthcare by sharing the experiences of autistic inpatients – and setting a new standard for patient care and support.”
Autistica CEO Dr James Cusack said it is “unacceptable” that such huge numbers of autistic people are reaching crisis, yet nothing is being done to change the system.
“It is clear that we need to understand how to better support autistic people from day one. Without research into better solutions, and investment in services, these figures will only worsen, and more lives will be destroyed, or tragically lost.”