Two and a half weeks ago, most of us didn't have any idea who Joseph Kony was. Today, however, Kony is well known as a Ugandan warlord and the leader of 'The Lord's Army'. We know him as a cruel, evil man who has kidnapped and forced thousands of children into sex slavery, while turning others into child soldiers to further his warped agenda.
We have one person to thank for bringing Joseph Kony's name into the public light: Jason Russell, the man who made the KONY 2012 documentary that hit the Internet by storm, and co-founder of the group, Invisible Children. Not only did he produce and star in the documentary, he included his son as well. His video has received over 100 million views, thanks to YouTube, Twitter and Facebook.
As the documentary spread, Russell hit the media air waves, giving interviews left and right and he appeared to be eating up the attention. However, he clearly was not prepared for the backlash of tough questions thrust upon him related to motive, money and the exploitation of the children he filmed.
As the stress mounted, Russell's mental state began to deteriorate. Finally, last week he was filmed naked on a street corner in San Diego, talking to himself and masturbating for all the world to see. He was not arrested, but was retained and placed in a psychiatric facility with a diagnosis of 'brief reactive psychosis'.
I'm not here to judge whether Jason Russell deserved some of the criticism he received. Rather, I want to discuss brief reactive psychosis as a psychiatric diagnosis. This is triggered by intense stress over a short period of time, coupled with not eating, sleep deprivation and exhaustion. Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions and disordered thinking, but most patients suffering from just a single episode recover fully and don't develop a more severe, long term psychiatric condition.
An official statement by his 'Invisible Children' organization stated this episode was caused by extreme exhaustion, stress and dehydration. They continue, "...the doctors say this is a common experience given the great mental, emotional and physical shock his body has gone through in these last two weeks." His wife, as well as Invisible Children, emphasize that his mental break had nothing to do with drugs or alcohol.
Given a perfect storm of circumstances, this could happen to any of us, and it's important to not let this psychosis influence your view of Jason Russell or his mission. He's not crazy or a psycho or a weirdo. He has a temporary condition that by definition will resolve with time. Also, the psychosis tells us nothing about his personality other than that he was under severe stress and suffered a breakdown. It gives no insight into whether he is good, bad or some combination of both.
The problem here is that so many in the public will see the naked video or hear about the public masturbation and this will immediately prejudice them against the man and all that he has done. You may agree or disagree with his motives, but his psychiatric condition should have nothing to do with your judgment of who he is or what he has accomplished.