Amanda Bynes, the f0rmer actress and Nickelodeon star, has made many recent headlines to her increasingly bizarre, erratic, and out-of-character behavior – behavior that culminated in Bynes setting a small fire and being confined to an involuntary psychiatric hold, followed by a long stretch in a rehabilitation facility. The courts granted control of her affairs to her mother, Lynn, and after successfully completing rehab, Bynes has been released and is back at home with her parents. She seems – based on the little access the public has to her – to be doing fine… comparatively, at least. Her twitter feed, once a string of bizarre non-sensical contradictions, now seems like the twitter feed of a more stable individual. Since emerging from a mental health facility, the assumption has largely been that Bynes received treatment for some sort of mental illness.
However, if Bynes’s attorney and mother are to be believed, that is not the case. Both made direct statements to People Magazine this week to state definitively that Amanda has not been diagnosed with either schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, the two conditions that she was generally assumed to have been treated for during her time in rehabilitation. They will only say that Amanda is no longer under the influence of marijuana.
However, some press outlets are reporting that something entirely different is occurring. TMZ is claiming that their sources have indicated to them that Amanda is indeed suffering from mental illness, and that the history supports that: after all, her mother was granted conservatorship due to the court’s belief that Amanda was suffering from a severe mental illness. TMZ’s report further claims that Amanda’s mother believes that the schizophrenia diagnosis is false and has taken Amanda off her meds.
Now, it is entirely possible that swaths of people have been misinformed and that Amanda is completely mentally sound. After all, only the Bynes family can truly know what is going on inside of their house at the moment – only they know exactly what is and is not true. Perhaps the rumors of schizophrenia were false… but what if they are not? What does it mean if the Bynes family is lying about Amanda’s mental state and taking her off medication that could be life-saving for her?
If this is indeed the case, the first thing it indicates is a deep shame and embarrassment of mental illness, and while having private family business aired out to the entire world must certainly be stressful and humiliating, mental illness is not something anyone should have to be ashamed of. If Bynes has schizophrenia, that condition is not the result of a choice she made – it is a medical condition the same as any other illness, and not something she can be faulted for. By talking about mental illness, the stigma can be removed from it… this silly notion that mental illness only affects “others” or “nobody that I know” could be dispelled. Amanda Bynes was an incredibly talented, bright, successful star and mental illness (purportedly) affected her – it is not discriminating. It affects millions – in fact, according to the National Institute of Mental Health, 2.4 million Americans have schizophrenia. Additionally, there are surely then millions of people across the country who know someone struggling with this illness. Instead of cowering from this diagnosis, talking about it could be a great opportunity to start a national conversation and begin bringing mental illness into the light.
It is possible that this supposed reaction from Bynes’s mother is not coming from a place of shame. The second, much worse scenario could be that, as TMZ claims, Lynn Bynes is not willing to admit her daughter has a condition. This complete denial of an upsetting diagnosis may be an easy way to cope, but pretending the problem is not happening will not make it go away. If Amanda Bynes is schizophrenic and has had her medication removed, she could become dangerous to herself or to those around her. Without the proper medication, what is going to stop her illness from remerging and leading her to, say, lighting another fire? Medication could potentially help Bynes lead a more stable, healthy life, and taking them away because acknowledging the reality of the illness is too difficult is not going to help her in the long run.
Whether or not this report is true, hopefully Amanda Bynes is able to stay healthy, happy, and safe. Her troubles – be they caused by mental illness or not – appeared to be incredibly serious, and one can only hope that this is the start of new, brighter chapter for her.
By: Alex Warheit