Internet, we need to have a talk.

I’ve had a number of readers ask why I’ve neglected to write about Amanda Bynes this last year. It’s simple, really. I don’t believe that celebrities are “fair game,” and that, when they have very human and very difficult struggles, I should capitalize on those things by writing an article, however well-intentioned. I believe they are deserving of privacy and respect, by virtue of their being people.

However, I’m making an exception here, because in the midst of the negative and callous press that Bynes has received, I think it’s time we had a chat about it from a different perspective. And then, after we’re done, I think it’s time we stop speculating about it altogether. Deal?

First and foremost, there is no way for us to know what, if anything, Bynes has been diagnosed with. The family has denied schizophrenia and bipolar diagnoses. And when I write this article about Bynes, I am only operating on the possibility – not the assumption – that these diagnoses are true.

Until Amanda Bynes comes out and self-identifies this way, it is not our place to make an assumption about her mental state. Most of us are not psychiatrists, and even if we were, none of us can make a diagnosis based on a Twitter feed. And it is Bynes’ prerogative to keep certain aspects of her life, including her health care, private.

For the sake of argument, we’re going to roll with the possibility, not the assumption, that Bynes may have bipolar and schizophrenia.

And on that note, I’m going to offer you a sobering statistic:

People with co-occurring bipolar and schizophrenia have one of the highest suicide attempt rates of any group. 70.6% of these individuals will attempt suicide in their lifetime.

You would think this would frighten us, and that we would be offering Bynes compassion on the mere basis that what she may be facing is, without a doubt, deadly.

Yet the vast majority of press and articles surrounding Bynes’ mental state seems to ignore the stark reality of her struggle, and instead, opt to mock her erratic and unusual behavior. Rather than recognizing that she may have an illness, they have turned mental illness into a spectacle to watch, enjoy, and ridicule.

We, as a culture, are alarmingly desensitized to the seriousness of mental illness, particularly when it affects celebrities. Whenever a famous person has a “breakdown,” or goes off to rehab, there is always a sensationalized headline and a gawking that we collectively do. We treat it like a performance to consume and be shocked by, to laugh at, to enjoy.

We have made mental illness into a form of entertainment, and this is reflected in the articles that have been written about Amanda Bynes as of late.

If no one has explained this to you, let me be the first to say that it is morally repugnant that we, as a society, are mocking mentally ill people.

If it is indeed true that Amanda Bynes has both bipolar and schizophrenia, she faces an uphill battle. These are both diseases with high mortality rates, and devastating symptoms that are difficult to treat. And while she faces these illnesses, the entire world is watching. To have the audacity of laughing and poking fun as she struggles with these painful disorders is truly disgusting.

It’s all fun and games until someone dies, as was the case with Robin Williams. When celebrities have very public “breakdowns,” we find them entertaining, sensational, intriguing. When celebrities die from these illnesses, however, we grieve for them, celebrate their lives, and profess our sympathy for their struggle.

Amanda Bynes may be battling two illnesses that could very easily kill her. Why is she not receiving the same level of respect, tact, and compassion that we afford those who have already died at the hands of these same illnesses?

Are we only deserving of dignity and respect if we die?

Does Amanda Bynes need to die by suicide before we will start valuing her life? How fucked up is that?

No matter what Bynes posts on twitter, or what wigs she wears, what we need to understand as outsiders is that something very difficult and frightening is happening to Amanda Bynes — and it is irresponsible to talk about it any other way, whether it’s to poke fun at it, or reduce it to her being “crazy.” In either scenario, it diminishes her personhood.

Why this reminder needs to happen is beyond me, but apparently it does: Bynes needs compassion, not ridicule, not laughter. Her struggles, whatever they may be, do not exist for your enjoyment.

Anyone who thinks an involuntary psychiatric hold is fun or amusing is horribly misguided. Anyone who thinks psychosis or paranoia is a walk in the park has clearly never been there. Anyone who thinks schizophrenia or bipolar is hilarious has never had their life devastated by these disorders.

I have. And I can tell you – there’s no pain on earth quite like it.

Anyone who has forgotten that Amanda Bynes is a human being first and foremost needs to step back, and do some serious soul-searching.

Any journalist or columnist who thinks Bynes’ behavior is great material for a lighthearted article needs to reexamine their motivations, and decide for themselves what kind of writer they want to be. Someone who profits off of someone’s pain? Or someone with integrity?

As someone with bipolar disorder, I want to offer a reminder to those who do not suffer from the disorder that making a mockery out of our struggle is dehumanizing. This should go without saying, but apparently it must be said: Mental illness is not a joke. Mental illness is not funny. Mental illness does not exist to amuse you.

If Amanda Bynes has taught us anything, it’s that mental illness can, in fact, touch anyone. It exists in every community, every city, every race, every social class, every gender. Celebrities are not immune to these devastating disorders. In fact, 13.6 million Americans live with a serious mental illness, and if Amanda Bynes is among them, she will need support and compassion to get through it.

What message are we sending, as journalists, bloggers, and writers, if we treat mental illness with the same brevity and amusement as writing about Kim Kardashian’s ass?

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Did you cry when Robin Williams died, but laugh when Amanda Bynes was taken to the hospital? Why is that? I’m challenging you to really think about the ways that we treat folks with mental illness.

When we make these disorders into a joke, we become complicit in creating a culture where mentally ill people are taught to feel ashamed, isolated, and broken. And when we uphold that stigma instead of challenging it, it’s not surprising that so many people with these illnesses opt to take their own lives.

We need to do better. Not just for Amanda Bynes, but for all the people worldwide who suffer from these disorders.

It’s not a spectacle. It’s a goddamn illness.

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UPDATE (10/20/14): Due to the confusion surrounding the title, the article has been renamed from “It’s All Fun and Games Until Someone Dies: Amanda Bynes, Robin Williams, and the Spectacle of Mental Illness,” to omit the first portion. The intent of the original title was to compare and contrast the treatment of celebrities before and after they die — never to suggest that Bynes had passed away.

UPDATE (10/22/14): A new article has been written in response to this piece going viral.

UPDATE (11/9/14): Commenters have pointed out that co-occurring bipolar and schizophrenia is commonly referred to as “schizoaffective disorder.”

UPDATE (11/14/14): There is now an animated version of this article!

As of 11/15, comments have been disabled on this article.

 

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588 comments

    1. Many people are diagnosed with a mental illness, when in fact, it could be from a THYROID PROBLEM. Hypothyroidism & Hyperthyroidism, Hashimotos Disease, Hypoglycemia can mimic Manic, Bi-polar, Depression with Serious emotional highs & lows. I wonder if Amanda’s doctors have given her the 10 THYROID TESTS to check off these potential Life Threatening Physiological Health Issues which create chemical imbalances. I, personally, was diagnosed with Hashimotos. I have been taking Thyroid medication & bio-identical hormone replacement for over 10 years. Never once did my doctors check my Thyrogobulin Autoantibodies throughout these years.
      My health & stress levels had been declining & my doctors acted Helpless! I stumbled upon a website which described my similar disheartening health issues. I happened to be going in for my yearly blood test the following day. I requested this one simple Thryogobulin test & it showed that my body is attacking my Thyroid. Showing I needed an Anti-flamitory Diet, No Dairy & Removing STRESSORS from my life…which requires leaving jobs, people (even loved ones, if the relationship has become toxic), & avoiding social places where it’s uncomfortable, or obvious, an unsafe place to be. For Amanda, This IS a Harsh World. Christ Told us it was so. Don’t take anything personal. It’s actually a twisted compliment others would want to see your life destroyed. They have nothing better to do than to encourage the demise of any person. It’s astonishingly realization these people are worse off Mentally than You. If God be for you, Who can come against you? I encourage us all who are suffering to have a Chem Panel 14 & ALL the Thyroid tests blood tests to resolve our health & mental problems. Also, knowing your environmental living conditions contribute to health & mental health. Our area doesn’t have Selenium. If we don’t have this mineral, our bodies can’t process Vitamin B. Which directly affects our T Cells. Think about what we are exposed to…aside from Vaccines.
      Doing a study in the era I was raised in & our children, having Aborted FETUS Cells, Monkey Brain Cells, Mercury, Formaldehyde, Aluminum…. Poison(.)!!! Aborted FETUS Cells is another persons DNA which will cause our body to turn on itself & Create an Autoimmune Disease. ADD Monkey Brain Cells? Practicing Nephelum on us? Heavy Metal Toxicity on top of this mess? No wonder we are having difficulty being Loving & Compassionate towards one another.
      Our babies are being Poisoned before leaving the hospitals, yet alone the messed up gene pool our parents gave us through their contaminated Genetic Alteration from their exposure from vaccines. Did Amanda start acting out after having been Vaccinated. Some things to think about before we laugh or judge. The Cruelty of Humanity IS INHUMANE.

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      1. I don’t know about like 90% of what you’re saying, but every time someone says vaccines are poisoning our population, I have to run to my quiet place and re-convince myself that we shouldn’t take away people’s reproduction rights based on the nonsense they believe to be true. Our society is incredibly undereducated about how and why mental health disorders come to be, but its no excuse to make up information, or to believe everything you hear. If you’re on the fence about vaccinations and their effects on human health, please know that you would probably not be alive today without your vaccinations.

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      2. I was vaccinated along with my siblings, friends and all their children and there is nothing wrong with me or any of them. Quit with the vaccine poisoning people. A lot more people would be dead or sick without vaccines. We don’t need measles going around everywhere because people are ignorant.

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      3. I dont know what doctor you go to or think everyone else is going to, but mine made sure I had my thyroid tested before medicating me for depression.

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  1. I personally have brain damage from a accident When I was out for my nightly run I was in a wheelchair and not able to speak full sentence for years Coming up on the 10 years anaversty in January People still pat my head speak to the person I am with instead of speaking or asking questions about me to me I do have alot of health and mental health issues But I am able to speak for myself You reading this can see grammar and writing skills are lacking But aleast I am trying I’m ignored or pushed a side when talking But if who I am with says something the person is quick to respond I have a BA in teaching I have a family i cant say sorry kids but mommy’s doesn’t want to fight with other about letting you play on the playground My kids who are 6 and under are treated as if they’re disabled from some driver who ran me over on the sidewalk Ihave had to fight for fear treatment for my babies I don’t expect extra special treatment I expect equal treatment
    I am aware this article is not about brain damage and how those with are treated But in away it is my family not a horse and pony show Yes I had to relearn walking, talkind, motor skills, and so much more But I didn’t make you help I didn’t ask for you to get an item out of my reach So why treat me either like a dog you pet or as if I’m not there and bumped into or push out of their way or be told stay home
    What celebrities have to deal with is unfair Yes they signed up for the spotlight But we don’t have the right to have them in it at all times They are aloud a spotlight life along with a personal PERSONAL meaning they can go to the farmers market without having to explain why
    As for mental health lets start with a little thing called (hippa)law medical information is not for us to know unless you are Amanda’s Dr stayout of her private mental health Yes she brings a look at me sign But how about we don’t feed in a let the girl if ill find her way with love ones and I ensure you great medical care If she’s acting like this for again look at me look at me Then the more society plays in the worse it will get Robin Williams never came forward with the behavior of celebrity junkies Do you blame him The only way out he found Made one of the greatest actors leave to soon Who wants to tell his kids Were sorry but he belong to usAnd we would have looked down on his mental health issues

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    1. You have done something amazing by continuing to work towards healing your brain. I have brain damage too, on a much smaller scale, and the rehab work is so difficult and tiring. Sometimes it seems easier to just give up, especially when everyone around you treats you like you are a lost cause. It seems like a free pass to just relax and let people take care of me, but instead I say to myself, “I don’t care what they say about me. I will show them they are wrong. You are now a role model for me, even if you’re a stranger. Thanks.

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  2. Well said!! When Amanda’s behaviour was first splashed across headlines, all I kept thinking was where are her people, her family-someone should be watching out for this young lady not sensationalizing her erratic behavour. Mental illness has always had negative connotations attached to it but when “Gov’ts decided we should mainstream” everyone and closed many facilities leaving many to fight the fight alone, that’s when we failed them, miserably.

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    1. I really hope you’re not talking about ending institutionalization. (I’m not American so pardon me if that’s not what you meant, but institutionalization is really messed up.)

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      1. I work in health care. Not in the States but in Canada.

        We too closed down many mental health institutions with the tag line “helping the mentally ill renter to society as productive members of society.” Most assuredly in some cases it worked. The olden-days practise of shutting them behind walls never to be release was repugnant. But there is a middle ground

        But what about those that aren’t able to cope in society. They aren’t able to maintain jobs. They are unable to care for themselves in even some of the most basic ways. But now they have no recourse if they are unable to function as a productive member of society. There are enough government run institutions to house them now. Now they are on the street living in stressful situations and becoming physically as well as increasingly mentally ill.

        They come into my ER and want help. But mental health beds are precious now. So the standards of admission to a long stay bed are getting higher and higher. And short stay isn’t enough to get some people back on an even keel. Or they do get admitted but have to wait around in the ER for days before a bed opens up. Is this fair?

        There are people that would benefit from longer term care. Or at least open-ended intermediate care. It’s called support. Institutions don’t have to be a bad word. There should constantly be therapies attempted with a view towards discharge I agree. But there also shouldn’t be an effort to push them out because there is pressure for beds because now a sicker person needs it. Which is what I am afraid it has come to.

        Liked by 1 person

  3. Great perspective, on a difficult topic. People need to have more compassion for everyone (not only with regard to mental illness either). Our culture has become so critical and demeaning and we are trained to identify and ridicule the “underdog.” I agree with you.

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    1. an addition in situation’s like this are a means of self medicating. sometimes people cut, sometimes they do drugs or drink a lot to feel something. to numb the pain…hope that helps you have a better understanding joe…

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  4. You hit the nail on the head.
    I work as a mental health professional, and sometimes, I have to PLACE people in a behavioral hospital. Sometimes I even have to help families figure out how THEY can place their relatives in a hospital.
    It’s never an easy process, especially when there is psychosis involved.
    The one thing that is usually consistent is that it only occurs for the least possible amount of time until that person is not in need of hospitalization.
    And it’s a tough, messy process for all involved, especially the client.
    I’ve used this analogy to tell my clients how serious hospitalization is: “You wouldn’t stay overnight in a physician’s hospital unless your physical health was in serious jeopardy. And you certainly wouldn’t stay overnight at a behavioral hospital unless your mental health was in serious jeopardy.”

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    1. Curious….is it a matter of their physical health in serious jeopardy due to their mental state this is the final straw for involuntary placement? I would have to think there would be VERY definite and strict lines.

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      1. There are, and it varies from state to state, and sometimes hospital to hospital.
        Some privately owned hospitals will accept patients for ‘stress’ regardless of their risk of harm toward themselves or others but, in my opinion, that just creates dependence upon hospitals as a coping mechanism, which can interfere with patients’ functioning in the real world.
        In most cases, the criteria for hospitalization are that the person is an immediate danger to themselves or others–making threats of suicide or homicide, or self-harming to the point beyond superficial injury. A person (at least here in Texas) is also considered at risk of harm to themselves if they are experiencing psychotic symptoms which have caused a recent, dramatic drop in their level of functioning.
        Say, if my Schizoaffective brother Jimmy were to one day arrive at work not wearing pants. That would show that he’s unable to care for himself and may not be aware of his surroundings, which could put him in danger (like when crossing the street). That alone wouldn’t likely be enough to hospitalize him, but it’d warrant a crisis screening at least.
        In short, the one criteria all hospitals have in common is that they admit people who are having thoughts (and possibly attempts) to hurt or kill themselves and others. If they’re not able to admit that person for whatever reason, they usually arrange for another hospital to take them in.

        I put it this way to another person yesterday–If Robin Williams had gone to a behavioral hospital like Amanda Bynes did he would likely still be alive.
        Good on Amanda.

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  5. I love this. I never considered this but it is so accurate because I can just see, if Amanda Bynes were to pass away due to her (potential) illnesses, everybody would be out there saying “you were my childhood” “you were an amazing actress” …. etc. I really like this article. Thank you for opening up my mind to this point of view.

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  6. Mental illness? What the hell is a mental illness? Are you talking about a psychological diagnosis? This entire post in condescending in its very nature, we are all different and this of us who are a bit more different than the rest of us don’t want pity, we don’t want preferential treatment, we want everyone to treat everyone better. Yeah trying to guess a persons diagnosis or ascribing a diagnosis to someone without the professional ability and reasons to do so is a really horrible thing to do. I can’t say I don’t feel kicking anyones ass who says “Oh that guy is so ADD/ASD”. But that’s because you don’t see what a diagnosis really is, it’s a guiding idea to make the job of a psychologist or psychiatrist manageable, truth is everyone is different and these are just rough categories. But in the end thats it just as we are all different we are also all the same, we have the same rights to the same treatment. Then you can’t give us who are a bit more different special treatment because that is just as condescending as pointing and laughing.

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  7. I am always saddened when I see a spectacle being made of a person with a mental illness. Having been raised by a bipolar mother, and having many suicides on her side of the family (her parents (who were divorced at the times), my first cousin that hung himself at 12) I am sensitive to all of these cries for compassion. My little girl has had suicidal thoughts and I immediately got her more treatment. After her schools lack of true concern a predominant problem is once again on my lips – MENTALISM. Until discrimination is gone and mental illness is not considered shameful and weak I fear for our society and new generations. Unfortunately lack of intelligence is also thought to be linked to mental illness, when in fact the exact opposite is generally true.

    http://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mentalism_(discrimination)

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  8. True words, true words. I applaud this honest and straight-forward approach to the issue. It reminds me of the case of Britney Spears during her own public breakdown, which led to shaving off her head and banging a papparazzi’s car window. They say it’s the price of fame, that when you signed up to be an entertainer to the world, your whole life will be played just like that.

    Maximus the Gladiator got it right: “ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED?”

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  9. My boyfriend has schizophrenia and bi-polar (Which is known as schizo-affective disorder btw). Even with his meds (of which we have tried dozens of combinations) nothing helps completely. They help to a certain extent but when he is in a bad cycle all we can do is ride it out. Does he act weird? Yep. Can he help it? Not a chance. He would much rather not have it happen but there is nothing he can do about it. And yes, there are days he despairs of ever feeling “normal” again. So before you judge or make fun of someone take a minute and look at things from their point of view.

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    1. I feel your pain, sweetie. 😦 My grandfather was never diagnosed but displayed MANY symptoms that could lead to a diagnosis of schizophrenia, paranoia, bi polar, etc. It’s painful for me to think of what my Grandma, Mom, and her siblings endured when he’d have an episode or tough week or two. By standards today, he should have gone to jail. The thing is..you could see in his eyes during calm moments that he hated the way he was. He LOVED to laugh and hear funny stories. I think it honestly kept him upbeat. He had a great childhood and loved talking about it. He definitely had times of the year that were scary…to say the least. My poor Mother is in her mid 60s and still is dealing with the aftermath of what she endured…and is self medicating with wine pretty regularly….tried a few different drugs….I’m scared she may be dealing with much of the same confusion/paranoia he faced as well. 😦 Agreed that people need to step back and try some compassion. It’s not the “knee jerk” reaction anymore, and it makes me very sad.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. Oh fuck you guys, I tore my brain in fucking half. I tore my corpus collosaum in totality. None of you can sympathize none of you can know what it’s like. But caring is one of the worst things you can do. EXPECT them to handle shit like a normal person. That’s the only thing that will make a person like that recover.

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  11. There’s no clear clue that Amanda Bynes has schizophrenia. The only thing that we know is that she was treated with a drug for schizophrenia (antipsychotics) while she was in the psych ward at UCLA. The fact is that antipsychotics are used for many purposes, not just for schizophrenia. Whether the psychotic episode from drug overdose, or due to infection, people use antipsychotics very broadly. Taking antipsychotics does not clue much to schizophrenia because of its wide purposes.

    At this time, there’s MORE evidence pointing towards the fact that she has abusing drugs, whether it’s alcohol, marijuana or other illegal drugs. In fact, paranoia is a clear side effect from marijuana overuse. That being said, to act irresponsibly under the influence of these drugs should not invoke anyone’s sympathy, whether it’s her or many other celebs. It’s a clear choice that she made, not something she must do. While I certainly don’t endorse people making fun of their behaviors, I also don’t think they deserve much sympathy as you have suggested.

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    1. The article isn’t simply about Amanda Bynes. It is using Amanda Bynes as an example of the stigma that exists, and the tendency to mock mentally ill people more broadly. Regardless of what is happening to Bynes, the media is still assuming she has a mental illness, and is using that as ammunition to degrade her. This points to a broader problem we have — the tendency to use mental illness as a joke.

      Regardless of your feelings about Amanda Bynes, this is a bigger issue that affects more individuals than just Bynes — people like myself, who are shamed and stigmatized each day — and I encourage you to think more generally about the points raised in this article.

      Respectfully, SDF

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      1. I’m sorry if my points got across in the wrong way. I am definitely not endorsing people to make fun of any psychiatric illness. Neither do I think that it is funny. I hope that you get all the help and support that you need.

        But your article does talk a lot about Amanda Bynes because she was assumed to have a psychiatric disorder. I’d say she is probably not the greatest example to use in your article because I and many other people definitely have different opinions in terms of what she really has. And it matters, as erratic behaviors due to drugs are irresponsible, yet they are less so if they are due to a mental illness.

        “Yet the vast majority of press and articles surrounding Bynes’ mental state seems to ignore the stark reality of her struggle, and instead, opt to mock her erratic and unusual behavior. Rather than recognizing that she may have an illness, they have turned mental illness into a spectacle to watch, enjoy, and ridicule.”

        Again I think it’s because your use of Amanda Bynes as an example, who already has a negative reputation in many people’s eyes for her extended history of drug abuse and DUI, that it is harder for us to give “compassion” to someone like her, especially when she is more likely not to have any psychiatric illness. But otherwise I agree that no one should make fun of anyone with mental illness.

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      2. Drug abuse is more or less a symptom of mental illness. Look at the bigger picture, do you think anyone would choose to live a life of such chaos abd consequence without some type of mental affliction? I myself am a primary source of this concept. Always with anxiety and feeling as though I was different or didnt belong since I could remember, I sought to numb myself chemically-the numb only lasts for so long before it turns to depression that one could never describe or understand until theyve been there. I knew that if I didn’t do something I would expire very soon-the only reason that even mattered is because I grew up knowing I had people that loved me. I have currently been clean/sober for 3 years, will finish my undergrad degree in less than a year, and have built several healthy relationships. I am now managing my mental comorbidities and better identify and understand certain things about myself. Not all of my improvments/ accomplishments have come easily and I still get discouraged thinking about my “abnormalities” but having the resources and support of people who cared about me makes all the difference. So to reiterate, drug addiction-a state of impulsive drug abuse, illogical decision making, varying degrees of disregarded consequences-is very much relative to mental illness. And while guilt resonates to my core when people tell me “how proud” of me they are for basically no longer contributing to the downfall of society while killing myself, it drives me to keep doing better. Point: you never know what someone is really going through, a kind word or a smile could save a life, and all those other memes that hold more value to some than most. Open your eyes.

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      3. Yes, I understand people turn to drugs when they are mentally ill, and that’s sad. But there are also people who knowingly turn to drugs, even without any mental illness in the first place, and get addicted to it afterwards. And my guess is Amanda Bynes is this rather than she had some mental illness in the first place.

        I do not and will not support and will never empathize irresponsible behaviors that result from substance abuse – such as drunk driving, and other reckless behaviors. These and many other reckless behaviors endanger the society, endanger my kids, endanger literally anyone. And, if people like Amanda Bynes (with multiple records of DUI and irresponsibility) were to turn back to the public and say, oh hey I’m actually the victim here, how do you think other people are going to take it? And what if we had friends or loved ones that got affected from her drunk driving? Am I supposed to give her my compassionate smile? That is why even in the beginning my argument has been to stress that she was knowingly abusing drugs, that she did not have any psychiatric disorder.

        Now you don’t have to go to a college to understand that drugs are bad for you. This is a fact known almost by anyone. So now it’s left with whether you chose to do it or not. And if you did choose to do, you should hold yourself responsible for the consequences that result from it.

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    2. I don’t think the author is trying to make a diagnosis. I think he’s simply taking a few of Hollywood’s examples of what we may call “erratic behavior” and tying it into what many Americans experience on a daily. The article calls for compassion. If she’s been hauled away, involuntarily, to a psych hospital, there’s reason to suspect mental illness. It’s all over the news…it’s no secret. I think it’s TERRIBLE how people have mocked this girl over the course of a few months or so. Everyone is so quick to ridicule or judge. If you have ever experienced feelings of extreme high or extreme low…or an inexplicable depressive state where you can’t stop crying and feeling doom…but you’re not exactly sure what the trigger might be…then you’d understand the ride is hell. Truly, when one is in that state, his or her behavior is off the charts erratic, and the idea of being careful goes right out the window. It isn’t until they “come down” or they snap out of it that they realize everything they’ve done and can’t undo.

      Chastising her for using drugs and deciding she “doesn’t deserve as much sympathy as he has suggested” is about as ignorant and careless as folks making an incorrect mental health diagnosis. How exactly do you decide “how much” sympathy a person deserves? Sympathy is the first step in trying to help him or her get back on track.

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  12. Sam Dylan Finch, Thank you. I am impressed with your knowledge and how eloquently you have talked about such a difficult issue. It is past time to talk about mental illness, and I fervently hope that people one day can understand. That it is not a choice, not something you can shake off, not something you would choose to live with day in and day out. Thank you again, and I wish you all the best

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Very well said … I suffer from depression and anxiety … nibbled on a barrel … took a bottle of pills … even played with a straight razor … mental illness isn’t funny at all and there is a whole lot of idiots out in the world who think it is…

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  14. While I applaud the sentiment behind your argument, it’s really problematic that you’re making assumptions about Amanda Bynes having a “disease” when that is not at all clear. It’s not like this happened just because she “went off her meds” — the girl has an ADDERALL PROBLEM, like so many other young people in this country, and most of her behavior can easily be explained as iatrogenic damage caused by this substance. In my opinion, the same thing happened to Britney, and yet we continue to buy into the myth that people who become manic or psychotic in response to taking dangerous pharmaceuticals have an “underlying disorder” that is being unmasked.” Furthermore, anti-psychotic treatment actually increases the risk of developing psychosis dramatically; yet another face of the double bind that confines brilliant and eccentric individuals to hospitals in four point restraints.

    Also, let’s be clear about something: “mentally ill” people do not kill themselves because they have a “fatal disorder.” We kill ourselves because the world itself is insane, fucked up beyond comprehension, unfair and full of miserable, rotten people who do not deserve us. The “problem” is not a disease that the population at large refuses to understand, the problem is actually society itself; the problem is capitalism.

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    1. While I do not usually respond to every single comment, I felt there needed to be some clarity here.

      First of all, there was no assumption made about Bynes, as was clearly stated in the beginning. I operated on the possibility in order to construct an argument against very dangerous messages in the media. It is the MEDIA making these assumptions, so I contended with these assumptions. They were not made by me, nor endorsed by me in this article.

      I would encourage you to reread the article, and engage with the broader arguments that were made about mental illness — because this is not an article about Amanda, so much as it is about the stigma around mental illness and the problems there. I used Amanda Bynes as a point of reference that most readers are familiar with to make the points more clear and accessible.

      Second of all, I never said Amanda Bynes has a problem because she went off of medication, so I don’t know why you are using quotations as if to quote me when those things were simply never said. In fact, many of the arguments you made in this comment are based on statements that were never made in the article… I’m not sure who you are arguing with at this point, really. I never spoke about anti-psychotics, I never spoke about psychosis — these are all far beyond the scope of this article. I’m not writing my dissertation or thesis. I’m writing a blog entry.

      Lastly, as a suicide survivor, I don’t need to be told why folks attempt or commit suicide. The reasons are diverse, complicated, and personal. I don’t need an education on it — I’ve lived it.

      The issue of capitalism is simply beyond the scope of this article. I cannot cover every vantage point, every opinion, and every possible thought on mental illness in a mere blog post. That’s an unreasonable expectation. If you’re looking for another perspective on this topic relating to capitalism, I would search elsewhere. It’s beyond the scope of this piece.

      Respectfully, SDF

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      1. But do you not realize that by constructing the argument the way that you have, you have ended up reifying the perspective you seek to critique? I didn’t mean to suggest that you had advanced an argument regarding med compliance, but any argument that assumes that Amanda’s experiences are because she has a disease — even if this argument is made metaphorically — necessarily feed into that meme. I guess what I am trying to say is that solidarity means more than deconstructing stigma, solidarity means telling people who have no idea what they’re talking about to shut the fuck up. And I suppose that I, knowing that I know absolutely nothing about Amanda Bynes, am trying, however misguidedly, to do that in these comments.

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      2. Simply stating “Amanda Bynes does not have an illness” is not an effective critique of the media coverage that is happening. I state upfront that self-identification is important. But not addressing the callous representation of mental illness and the mockery being made out of it would be a mistake. The issue is two-fold here — and blog entries can only be so long before everyone tunes out.

        It wasn’t written the way you would have done it, which is fair, but if that’s your perspective, by all means, write an entry about the importance of self-identification and expand on it at whatever length you feel is appropriate. I really encourage my readers to share their voices, and allow those voices to be heard outside of the comments as well. You are clearly very intelligent and compassionate, and I would love to see what your article would look like — I mean that sincerely.

        But the fact still remains that the media is demonizing mental illness and using Amanda Bynes to do it, and that’s not something I felt comfortable ignoring.

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    2. And while I understand that you’re taking up the “Amanda Bynes is schizophrenic” meme as a rhetorical device, this is still in and of itself problematic. We should never speak on behalf of people we don’t know, even if we’re supporting them, arguing against those who are ridiculing them. Amanda Bynes has a right to identify herself however she chooses, and based on her public statements thus far, she is adamant in her conviction that she is “not crazy.” She is actually perceptive enough to understand that the insanity does not reside within her mind; she has seen further then most of us have, and because of this she knows. She knows. And all of us, including you, have absolutely no idea, no idea what it’s like to be Amanda Bynes, to be the vessel of her generation’s insanity, to be written about and held up as an example of “the stigma against mental illness in America.”

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      1. While I understand where you are coming from, I respectfully disagree. If no one speaks out against the abhorrent media coverage that positions Amanda Bynes as “crazy,” and seeks to make a mockery out of her, it will never change. The oppressor’s voice will be heard over all others.

        Amanda Bynes is being positioned this way whether you like it or not — and perhaps instead of commenting here, where I attempt to challenge that position, you should be commenting on the countless articles that mock her. You should be writing letters to major outlets who are allowing this to happen, and making articles like mine necessary.

        If you would rather no one challenge these tabloids for their lack of standards, and instead let media outlets run rampant with offensive and disgusting commentary on her, that’s fine. But I refuse to allow that to happen.

        I believe that you are barking up the wrong tree. My article wouldn’t have been written if there weren’t already existing depictions and disgusting coverage. I didn’t start the fire. I am not the root of the problem. It’s misogynistic, ableist, and callous press that warranted response articles like mine.

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      2. I’ll also add, I do really believe that self-identification is important, and I think it’s unfortunate that labels are being forced upon Amanda Bynes. And I get that writing about her this way could encourage others to use those labels where they shouldn’t be used. Maybe this means another article about self-identification should happen — I just felt I’d addressed it appropriately in the beginning. But if you feel I didn’t, that’s totally fair.

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    3. Thanks for this rare perspective on a huge problem sam dylan finch. Some people will never get it and thats really heart breaking. Keep writing your beautiful words 🙂

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  15. I am a young writer who suffers from bipolar disorder. I have dedicated my writing and academic career to changing and challenging the stigma against those with mental illnesses. If you are interested in the common misrepresentations and what we can do to stop the stigma, I highly recommend the book “Media Madness” by Otto F. Wahl. It is so inspiring to see another writer defending mental illnesses and telling others that no, it is not a spectacle, and that we must treat those who are suffering from a mental illness with compassion and respect. And again, so inspiring to read (most of) the comments and to know how many people are passionate about this issue! Thank you for this 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you for the recommendation! 🙂 I haven’t heard of this book, but I will be looking it up for sure.

      Also, if you have a minute, definitely check out my most recent blog post (it was just posted about an hour ago) — it’s right up your alley about writing and challenging stigma.

      Thanks for your comments — and good luck with your work. Glad that we’re on the same team!

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  16. Just to add one more reply (since you seem to have disabled replies to you most recent comments): I don’t think the tabloids making fun of Amanda are the only ones at fault. Equally culpable are the so-called “progressive” commentators talking about how great it is that Amanda Bynes is in treatment, how the 1 year LPS hold is “exactly what she needs,” how we all hope that Amanda “recovers from her illness.” First of all, permanent conservatorship designed to enforce medication compliance is a tragedy, a violation of liberty, essentially a prison sentence that amounts to systematic neurological rape. More importantly, I have no idea whether or not her father molested her; I think this is a very, very, very sensitive issue, and because we know nothing, we have to at least be willing to assume that maybe, just maybe, what she’s saying is true, because that’s the minimum level of decency required whenever anyone anywhere makes a rape allegation, regardless of their mental health history. I mean, seriously … because of the nature of the allegations involved, any and all discourse suggesting that Amanda’s recent experiences are due to mental illness is deeply, deeply problematic, and could even be considered gaslighting. I think the media’s willingness to depict rape allegations as evidence of mental illness a priori, without any facts whatsoever, is the real story / problem here, not “stigma.”

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    1. I’ve not disabled any replies.

      I spoke of media more generally. I did not exclude progressive media — in fact, it was a Jezebel.com article that sparked my interest in writing this piece.

      And the particulars of Bynes’ situation, again, goes far beyond the scope of the article. The “real story” that you point out is another article for another day, and is not what I wrote about here. You are complaining, essentially, that I didn’t write about the topic you wanted me to write about. If that is indeed the case, I would again encourage you to write that article yourself.

      Lastly, I think the fact that you can’t recognize stigma as an issue here means that you are not in a place to really understand where I was coming from with the article. The fact that thousands of people commented, sharing their experience of being mocked and stigmatized in a similar way, is evidence enough that stigma is a relevant issue here. The oppressed can recognize when they are being oppressed.

      I’m not in a position to spend a lot of time replying to all of your comments, so I’ll leave it at “agree to disagree.” There are a lot of emails, comments, and feedback that I get, and I can’t spend a lot of time on each and every person. I hope that my comments were helpful, at the very least, in illuminating where I was coming from.

      If not, oh well. You can’t please everyone. That’s just a fact.

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      1. It isn’t that you didn’t write the article I wanted you to write – I actually think that what you wrote is problematic, as is so much of the mental health discourse produced in this country. I definitely am in a position to understand stigma myself, as I’m currently on disability after a really serious hospitalization. I just have a different opinion, and I’m glad I got the chance to talk about it with you, because these are the conversations we need to be having as a community.

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  17. Reblogged this on Creative Pieces and commented:
    It is so inspiring to see another writer defending mental illnesses and telling others that no, it is not a spectacle, and that we must treat those who are suffering from a mental illness with compassion and respect. And again, so inspiring to read (most of) the comments and to know how many people are passionate about this issue! Thank you for this 🙂

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  18. THANK YOU SO!!!! i have a mental illness and have worked with others with mental illness to help them learn to get along in the world. i could care less what celebrity this is about. i sincerely thank you for the message that mental illness is an illness, not entertainment. more people need to be made aware of this article. i wish i had found something like this when i was younger and felt so desperately alone that i tried to kill myself. there are so many people who need the reminder that they are not alone in this fight and that somebody understands that for them it is a real struggle to get through every day. thank you again for giving mental illness a voice

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Being a widow,who’s husband died of mental illness,it is very sad to see that many illnesses go unnoticed until someone rich and famous dies from them,what bothered me mostly is that alot of doctors,prefer to continually prescribe,pills and meds that have nothing to do with the patient problem,so long as he/she are walking zombies,their jobs are done,sad but so true,..

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  20. I loved reading this. Bravo. I appreciate your compassion and grace. Thanks for reminding us all that being kind and understanding is what we need more of in this world.

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  21. Love your blog 🙂 , ! Interesting points! – I’m new to this blogging thing, would be great if you could have a peep at my posts 🙂 x

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  22. it really irritates me when people feel the need to put in their two cents on the validity of others mental illness or drug addictions. If you have never walked in these shoes and still think it is ok to pass judgement, you are sincerely misinformed and just plain ignorant. For example, those of you who think drug addiction is a personal choice, are out of line. 9 times out of 10 people use drugs to cope with underlying issues, to “self medicate” if you will. If you truly believe someone would CHOOSE to ruin their lives and the lives of those around them, then I think you should read up on the disease of addiction and tAlk to an addict or two before making such outrageous comments. Addiction is far from a choice. Do you really genuinely believe if it were a choice, that good hearted people would choose to be so miserable? Wake up everyday sick? To literally kill their parents or family members with stress? There is a lot that goes into addiction but “will power” has little to nothing to do with it. It’s ok though. I wish i were still ignorant to addiction. Just means you’ve never been there. Never lived in constant fear. Or lived with complete and utter self hatred and the feeling of complete hopelessness. For that, I am grateful. I wouldn’t wish this disease on my worst enemy.

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  23. I have a 20 year old bipolar son who has been hospitalized twice while in elementary school for suicide attempts. During that time he also had a bladder tumor. Until the day comes when I and all of us can discuss our children’s/ families/friends mental problems as freely with each other as we do their medical problems then the shame will continue to compound the issues and lead to more frequent suicides especially with our much improved forms of talking to and about so many people so many ways….. Just awesome!!! FYI…in the mental health
    World they call Bipolar Disease “The Cancer of Mental Illness”. It’s mortality rate is 1 in 4. That is even with treatment…..most cancers don’t even have that high of a death rate. Do you have 4 members in your family? Well with this stat one will die… That is what I get to live with but not talk about!!!! And to be honest the bladder tumer it got cured rather quickly I would rather be able to talk about the years of frustration this has brought into our home and it still does every day and every night….

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  24. Thank you for this wonderful article. As a society, sometimes we heap compassion once it’s just too late. Where is that compassion when people actually need it most? I have never understood why we treat mental illness differently than we do physical illness. Perhaps we need a colored ribbon to remind us that mental illness is a disease, not a punchline. It’s a horrible struggle, not only for those who suffer from it, but for their families and friends as well. I feel hopeful that this article is a step in the right direction.

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  25. You’ve just summed up why I hate and despise journalists/reporters who only invade a person’s privacy to turn it into sensationalism. And you’ve also shown my disgust with our modern “anti-social” networking society. I’m glad to see there are people who feel the same.

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  26. Most of you guys are probably fortunate enough to not have ever known a meth addict…. same goes for most writers of the Bynes coverage. But to those who understand what meth does to a totally normal person… there is no question that Amanda Bynes is on meth. Why do you think her parents deny the fact that she is bipolar/schizophrenic? Why do you think she talks to herself and tries to set driveways and dogs on fire? Meth makes you 100% paranoid, and delusional… with bouts of total psychosis. Britney was on meth as well, when she shaved her head and went on that insane spree of erratic behavior. Why does the media never report on celebrity meth usage?

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  27. I just want to congradulate those who’ve survived through mental illness.I’m one of them.Episodes as in hospitalizations are very hard especialy if you’ve been a very productive high functioning person the feeling of disability throws someone for a loop.I found love and understanding like anything can pull you through I have much more love in life which I believe keeps me stable.I believe it can’t be said enough that stigma be damned.Someone can beat this illness even if society is too stupid to understand it which it can be but hey love myself over society anyday and screw the stigma.Its society that should be made fun of.look at all the ways it tries to drive people nuts.Most people need to be treated sensitively more because it can be a rough place for anyone who is “sick” we all need love and help sometimes

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  28. Halleluiah! The behavior you describe laughing at,ridiculing, and finding amusement in Ms Byrnes actions is pure bullying by adults! We wonder why kids are guilty of this? Your perspective is a wonderful stepping stone to educating the many ignorant people at every level. I can only hope people with your attitude and gift for articulation are being selected to further the cause of new ways to help change this country’s view and handling of mental illness. Thank you

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  29. I had a similarly strong response when Mel Gibson was being trashed and even the psychiatrists on TV wouldn’t acknowledge his BP diagnosis. http://wp.me/PZQMq-4d It feels like people can’t accept the idea that someone who has succeeded could be mentally ill … even though lots of successful people do have dx. And then, as you point out, they want to trash people when they have what are really symptoms. Thanks for your excellent piece.

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  30. I am not a mental health professional or maybe I am, I have been through unbelievable ordeals in my 25 years of life. I got to the point that I have tried killing myself 5 times.
    I was eventually put in a psych lock ward. I was ridiculed and talked about by a lot of people which to be honest was heart breaking.
    I think people should really have a good think before opening there mouth and bad mouthing sick people.
    I have defeated my deamons but I will always remember whrre I have came from because ithas made me the man I am today. Im a ffantastic father and partner to his mummy.

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  31. Carrie Fisher said that Robin Williams was not bipolar. I have appeared in comments about bipolar disorder with Carrie in TIME magazine. I trust her opinion.

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