A new video of “Kony 2012″ creator Jason Russell’s mental breakdown has highlighted the kind of debilitating stress that can result from public criticism.
Russell, 33, was taken to a mental health facility for observation Thursday after onlookers reported him roaming naked through the streets of San Diego’s Pacific Beach neighborhood, possibly masturbating, and pounding his fists on the sidewalk. The latest video, obtained by TMZ, shows an agitated Russell ranting to himself, bizarre behavior his wife blamed on criticism of his documentary film about African warlord Joseph Kony.
“Because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal and Jason took them very hard,” Danica Russell said in a statement, adding that her husband’s “irrational” behavior stemmed from exhaustion and dehydration, not drugs or alcohol.
Russell’s 30-minute documentary has racked up more than 83 million views on YouTube in two weeks. Supporters signed an online pledge through Invisible Children, a charity co-founded by Russell, to bring Kony to justice. But critics say the film oversimplifies a complex problem and promotes “slacktivism,” action that does little to fix the problem.
“He got a lot of criticism for this, and he may not be as internally resilient as someone needs to be to weather a storm of criticism like that,” said Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City. “It might have been such a tremendous injury to his ego that he just sort of fell apart.”
Hilfer has not seen Russell, nor does he know his medical history. But he said worry and self doubt can lead to sleep problems and poor self-care, which can trigger irrational behavior such as Russell’s.
“Sometimes we see this in response to people not taking good care of themselves when they’re under great deal of stress and pressure,” Hilfer said. “They become overwhelmed and anxious and it interferes with their ability to sleep. Without treatment, it can cause disorientation and mental confusion.”
Hilfer said severe dehydration can also cause strange behavior.
“Dehydration can absolutely cause all the signs of mental confusion he seemed to be experiencing,” he said, adding that severe dehydration would most likely be brought on by illness, but could also result from poor self-care.
A bad reaction to a medication, possible a prescription sleep aide, might also be to blame, Hilfer said.
Hilfer said a person can recover completely from a mental breakdown with the proper treatment, which might include drugs and therapy, and family support.
“All of these things can help somebody put it back together again,” he said. “Being able to step away from limelight and recognize priorities and what options and alternatives there are is also important.”
In a statement about the breakdown, Invisible Children chief executive officer Ben Keesey said the past two weeks have taken a “severe emotional toll” on everyone involved in the “Kony 2012″ campaign, including Russell.
“Jason’s passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue,” Keesey said. “We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time.”