Over the last several years, the world watched as former child actress Amanda Bynes went from a seemingly normal teenager to a young woman in serious mental distress. Hints of trouble began in 2010 when Amanda was fired from the movie Hall Pass due to her erratic behavior. Later that year she announced she was retiring from acting. In 2012, a DUI and string of minor car accidents caused her to lose her driver’s license. A year of strange behavior and even stranger tweets followed before Amanda was finally arrested twice and admitted to the UCLA Medical Center for treatment from a mental health therapist.
Last week, it was announced that Amanda has officially been diagnosed with schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. According to reports, she is responding well to the treatment and medication her doctors are administering. Her parents are doing their best to keep her location and exact treatment private, which is understandable given the very public nature of her meltdown. We all sincerely wish Amanda well and are very grateful that she is receiving the help she needs at last.
Perhaps the most interesting part of the entire Amanda Bynes incident was the public’s reaction. The majority of the people who witnessed her erratic behavior whether in person or on Twitter seemed to assume she was either on drugs or severely mentally ill. Some celebrities, such as Rihanna, Lance Bass and Perez Hilton (who were all the subjects of Amanda’s vicious and unprovoked verbal attacks) publicly wished her well and urged her to seek help, while Nick Cannon wrote her an emotional open letter.
Other people seemed to encourage Amanda’s behavior. Her followers on Twitter skyrocketed as her tweets became unstable, and she constantly retweeted comments from fans encouraging her eccentricities and telling her they had her back, no matter what. Amanda Bynes is a celebrity who is in the public eye, but there are also millions of Americans who have undiagnosed mental illness. The fact that so many were quick to encourage her proves that mental illness is still not understood by society as a whole. There is still a stigma, and until that stigma is dropped, there could be many more people who do not end up as lucky as Amanda seems to be.
Amanda’s privacy should absolutely be respected during this difficult time, as should anyone’s privacy that is beginning treatment for mental illness. But once she is further along in her recovery, it would be nice to see Amanda come out as a celebrity advocate for removing the stigma from mental illness. She could speak to women’s groups and various organizations about her experience and encourage others who may be embarrassed to come forward and get help. Her bravery would be commendable and she could use her celebrity status to help many others.