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Why Celebrity Mental Breakdowns Aren't Funny

HEY! Have you heard that Creed's frontman, Scott Stapp, called the police and said he's being chased by people who want to harm him and his family? Did you hear the message he left at his son's school saying that "the core of ISIS is within" his family? Of course you have, because Stapp's very public, ongoing meltdown has been all over the internet. 

I mean, hello, TMZ published the recordings knowing they'd get a whole lot of traffic and attribution from other media outlets because this is BIG. Like, the lead singer of Creed"”a washed-up band from the late `90s who sang songs such as "With Arms Wide Open" and "Higher""”is saying that he's not on drugs and is under attack. His wife, who has since filed for divorce, even claims he threatened to kill the president!



That's all hilarious, right?! Actually, no, it's not funny at all. 

It's easy to make fun of things we don't understand, and thanks to the Internet, it's now a very easy and popular thing to do. While it's tempting to make fun of Scott Stapp's recent cries for help"”insert joke about "Higher" being about ketamine here"”it's not responsible, and is actually quite harmful to others who may have mental illnesses. 

In November, Stapp posted videos of himself begging for a fair attorney and claiming that all his money had been taken. When TMZ first published these videos, it was hard not to watch. Every outlet pounced on the thought of easy clickbait"”after all, people love reading about celebrities falling apart. For one reason or another it makes people feel like their lives are validated; that while we're not as wealthy or influential, we're not crazy. But Stapp's story doesn't make me feel better about my own life. In fact, it makes me feel awful. 

When I read that Stapp's wife, Jaclyn, and his sister-in-law called the police to report that he "had gone AWOL from a mental facility" and "was cruising around his neighborhood, shirtless on a bicycle" while claiming "to be a CIA agent and his mission was to kill Obama," I giggled. The thought of a once popular singer, who has always been vocal about his faith, running around screaming that he was sent to kill the president is so outlandish that it sounds like a joke. Unfortunately, Stapp wasn't joking. 


Scott Stapp does some weird eagle pose at a concert in Las Vegas. Ethan Miller / Getty Images

Stapp swears he's sober in both video and audio recordings, something his wife says she believes. The problem, she says, is that Stapp is trying to detox from a list of drugs"”including amphetamines, crystal meth, steroids, ketamine, PCP, weed, cocaine, and prescription drugs"”without the help of a facility. 

While a medical report hasn't been issued and we can't confirm Stapp was either using or abstaining from those drugs, addiction is a serious issue, and withdrawals can sometimes be fatal. 

According to the Australian Government Department of Health, amphetamine withdrawals are similar to cocaine withdrawals and can lead to "fatigue; insomnia or hypersomnia; psychomotor agitation or retardation; increased appetitie and; vivid, unpleasant dreams." In addition to these symptoms, many report feeling depressed.

Crystal-meth withdrawals are also incredibly straining on the body, and Psychology Today writes that "it can take as long as two years of staying clean for the dopamine function of an ex meth-addict to look anything like a normal person's." Since dopamine receptors monitor the "reward activity" of our brains, addicts who have altered the receptors are unable to feel as much pleasure or happiness as people with normal receptor function. 

Now imagine adding prescription drug withdrawals"”which cause sweating, tremors, nausea, vomiting, depression, anxiety, paranoia, and sometimes OCD"”to the mix. And if the prescription drug was an opiate, which act as "pain modulators," the withdrawals would be even worse.

It's not surprising why Stapp would be experiencing such a dramatic shift in both his physical and mental health if he really is dealing with multiple withdrawal symptoms. 

And Stapp isn't the only celebrity who has had a difficult year. He was joined in his suffering by Amanda Bynes and Robin Williams. It might surprise people to see Williams listed alongside Stapp and Bynes. After all, he was a successful, well-loved actor who brought so much joy to people's lives. But his life wasn't easy, and his illness ultimately led to his death


While this tweet appeared on Bynes' official Twitter profile, she later tweeted that she wasn't responsible for the post. Twitter

Sadly, it's easier for people to mourn the loss of someone like Williams than it is to sympathize with someone like Bynes. After a year filled with drunk driving, abuse allegations, stays in a psychiatric facility, and tweets like "the microchip in my brain made me say those things [about my father] but he's the one who ordered them to microchip me," Bynes took a tour of the University of Southern California's campus. She's reportedly considering studying psychology at the university. Instead of applauding Bynes, headlines like "Amanda Bynes to Enroll at USC; Troubled Actress Makes Interesting Choice of Major..." popped up online. 

Is it harder for us to feel bad for her because she's been so vocal and in the public eye? Or is it because she isn't regarded as having the same talent Williams did? Whatever the case may be, we need to make an honest effort to understand mental illness and to not vilify those who are affected. 

Last year, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHA) released data saying 1-in-5 Americans "suffers from some mental illnesses." To put that into perspective, 42.5 million Americans, or 18.2 percent of the nation, suffered last year. The chances of you personally suffering or knowing someone who is suffering from mental illness are pretty high. So, why are we so scared of talking about it? 

Perhaps people don't come forward because they're afraid to be painted in a similar light as Stapp or Bynes. When we consistently tell the world there's something grossly wrong with people with mental illnesses, we're saying that their suffering is something laughable only meant to fill headlines and be joked about amongst friends. 


Map shows where every school shooting has occurred since 1992. StopTheShootings.Org

Or maybe people are afraid because we constantly blame mental illness in tragedies. If you can believe it, there have been over 380 school shootings since 1992.  Instead of arguing to tighten gun regulations and making it harder for people to have access to semi-automatic and automatic weapons, the NRA and its supporters point their fingers at the mentally ill, claiming they're the problem, not easy accessibility to guns or lack of gun training. Yes, mental health plays a role in shootings, but it's unfair to blame mental illness entirely. The more you tell people they're monsters, the more likely it is they're going to believe it. 

Show the 1-in-5 Americans around you that you care about their well-being by avoiding jokes about celebrities with mental illnesses. You can help in a surprising number of ways, and can start by visiting MentalHealth.Gov for educational information and resources.