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Amanda Bynes: When Celebrity Mental Health Turns Insensitive Gossip

Amanda BynesThe 28-year-old actress Amanda Bynes recently told In Touch Weekly that there is a microchip in her brain that allows other people to read her thoughts.

“I want a dollar a day from every person who (is) reading my mind,” Bynes said.

Now TMZ reports that she was allegedly “going full Winona Ryder” — shoplifting from Barneys on Madison Avenue.

“She really should wrap her head in a seven-pound ball of aluminum foil,” wrote Tony Hicks of San Jose Mercury News, later adding, “Sounds like someone’s parents need to fly to New York and get her back to the doctor, before none of this is funny anymore.”

I’m guessing the tabloids are just following her around day and night waiting for her to do something kooky. Personally, I don’t find any of it “funny” at all.

I am by no means diagnosing Bynes and she herself has denied that she suffers from schizophrenia or bipolar disorder. But I know that she isn’t well. As the caregiver of a brother who suffers from schizophrenia, I know her parents must be scared, and their hands are completely tied.

Earlier this year her attorney, Tamar Arminak, told PEOPLE that Bynes isn’t taking medication — but we all know not everyone with mental health issues takes medication.

No one needs to be an expert to see that something is wrong here. Just because Bynes doesn’t recognize that she may need help doesn’t mean camera crews should be following a paranoid and troubled person around Manhattan waiting for her to do something startling.

My brother often feels that he is being watched. I can’t imagine what it must be like for Bynes’s family because in her case it’s actually true. There is an overblown interest in every quirk, every misstep, every juicy tidbit tabloids can get their hands on. I’m surprised more people aren’t outraged at the invasion of Bynes’s privacy when she is so obviously not in her right mind.

Mental health issues are a physical problem — they are no different from having any other medical condition. Would you follow a woman with cancer around New York City waiting for her to have a meltdown? Would you follow around an amputee for amusement? Would you stalk an elderly person with dementia hoping she’ll get confused and look “crazy”?

In December, it will be eight years since my older brother Pat was diagnosed with schizophrenia. He hasn’t been responsive to medication since he first went off his meds in 2008. He takes medication; long-term injectables, actually. But he still has flareups of delusions and paranoia at least once a year, usually at the coldest time of year.

His delusions often are of a persecutory nature. He believes people often come into his home and move things around when he’s sleeping. At some point he has believed that nearly every appliance in his home contained a listening device. He’s also been convinced that strangers speaking Spanish around him are saying negative things about him. He once believed that he could hear every word a person was going to say before they spoke it.

Does Pat identify with his diagnosis? As far as I know, he doesn’t identify as having schizophrenia. As I wrote in my book The Fog of Paranoia, Pat once told me: “Sarah, if I have schizophrenia I’d be locked in a padded cell somewhere.”

What he will concede is that he’s “weird.” He says he “gets weird” sometimes. That’s good enough for me. In the end, I don’t need him to identify with symptoms in a book. He doesn’t have to suddenly realize the difference between real and unreal. All I want for him is to be happy.

I feel certain that none of us would be happy if we were being followed by paparazzi and reporters, having our every move ending up in the headlines.

The suggestion that her parents get her back to a doctor ASAP also shows a strongly misguided view of how much control families like mine have. We have none. There is no way to intervene unless our loved one is a danger to himself or others.

And don’t be so sure going to the doctor or taking medication will fix everything. Refractory schizophrenia couldn’t care less whether you’re a doctor or if you’re the latest, most successful, most prescribed, most long-term medication in the world.

Mental health and wellness is a long road filled with trials and tribulations — it’s not a spectator sport.

Amanda Bynes: When Celebrity Mental Health Turns Insensitive Gossip


Sarah Newman, MA, MFA

Sarah Newman is the managing editor and associate publisher of PsychCentral and the founding editor-in-chief of the Poydras Review. She is also the cohost of the podcast Excuse Me, I Have Concerns where she discusses personal boundaries, personality and other psychology topics.


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APA Reference
Newman, S. (2018). Amanda Bynes: When Celebrity Mental Health Turns Insensitive Gossip. Psych Central. Retrieved on September 16, 2019, from https://psychcentral.com/blog/amanda-bynes-when-celebrity-mental-health-turns-insensitive-gossip/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 8 Jul 2018
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 8 Jul 2018
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