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Jason Russell’s Breakdown Was “Brief Reactive Psychosis” Following KONY 2012

"[T]his is a common experience given the great mental, emotional and physical shock his body has gone through ..."

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Jason Russell’s Breakdown Was “Brief Reactive Psychosis” Following KONY 2012
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Recent viral success Kony 2012 has been seen by over 100 million people, and doubtless millions of those viewers have also seen recent videos of Filmmaker and Invisible Children co-founder Jason Russell’s public nudity incident, or heard reports of his breakdown last week. Today the Invisible Children Blog thanked fans for their support during Russell’s recovery, and Russell’s family announced that Russell had been diagnosed with a short-term psychiatric condition called brief reactive psychosis.

At first details about Russell’s incident were fuzzy, and included allegations that he had been detained for public intoxication and masturbation. A spokeswoman for the San Diego Police Department later disconfirmed these earliest reports, stating that Russell was not and would not be charged with any crimes, but that he was detained on a 5150 psychiatric hold. In a similarly-timed statement, Invisible Children, Inc. CEO Ben Keesey stated that Russell’s “unfortunate incident” was a product of severe stress:

    Jason Russell was unfortunately hospitalized yesterday suffering from exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition. He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better. The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday.

He followed up with this video, released March 17:

To the Invisible Children Family from INVISIBLE CHILDREN on Vimeo.

In a statement published as part of today’s blog post, Russell’s wife Danica, writing on behalf of Russell’s entire family, said this:

    The preliminary diagnosis he received is called brief reactive psychosis, an acute state brought on by the extreme exhaustion, stress and dehydration. Though new to us, the doctors say this is a common experience given the great mental, emotional and physical shock his body has gone through in these last two weeks.

She reiterated that her husband’s incident was “in no way the result of drugs or alcohol,” announced that he would remain hospitalized for several weeks, and added that it could be months before Russell fully recovers and resumes his role with Invisible Children. “During that time,” she wrote, “we will focus not on a speedy recovery, but a thorough one.”

So what is Brief Reactive Psychosis?

According to the current version of the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (SM IV-TR), brief reactive psychosis is a “brief psychotic disorder with marked stressor(s).” PubMed Health explains it thus:

    Brief reactive psychosis is triggered by extreme stress (such as a traumatic accident or loss of a loved one), and is followed by a return to the previous level of function. The person may or may not be aware of the strange behavior.

This language closely mirror’s Ben Keesey’s explanation of the incident as the result of “exhaustion, dehydration, and malnutrition.”

Some blogs and news sites are skeptical of this diagnosis, or feel that it’s a convenient excuse for erratic behavior or a publicity stunt gotten out of hand. They may believe what they like, and observing from afar as most of us are, it’s beyond the scope of my vocation and my temperament to diagnose Russell or to pry, at this time, too deeply into his personal life or the details of his recovery. Some things remain sacred to me.

In light of the updates offered on the Invisible Children Blog, I feel deeply for Russell, his family, and his close friends. While Russell’s diagnosis is that of a short-term psychiatric problem, and he’s expected to get better, I can empathize with the fear, confusion, worry, and embarrassment that loved ones experience in the wake of an unexpected (or even an expected) psychotic episode. It’s a frightening and painful time for a family, and even moreso the person who suffered the episode — one fraught with uncertainty and often shame. My heart goes out to Russell and his family, and I wish them peace and a complete recovery.

Kony 2012 has not only been a viral success; the film and its parent organization have also been remarkably controversial and strongly criticized lately. Regardless of your opinion about the film, if you would like to extend your support or well-wishes to Russell and his family, you can do so on Invisible Children’s Facebook page, Twitter @Invisible, or in the comments at the Invisible Children Blog.

[PhotoSource: YouTube, via 106.1 Evansville]

Jason Russell’s Breakdown Was “Brief Reactive Psychosis” Following KONY 2012
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