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Cheryl Paradis, Psy.D.

Cheryl Paradis Psy.D.

Mel Gibson and a Leaked Tape

It is alleged that Mel Gibson made a threatening call

Like many Americans, I sat transfixed in front of the television last night listening to a tape of a phone call supposedly made by Mel Gibson. I heard a man yelling and cursing at a woman. It was disturbing to hear the man's tone and the language he used as he made racial slurs and threatened the woman. He said, ""I'll put you in a f **kin rose garden you c**t! You understand that? Because I'm capable of it. You understand that?"

I do not believe the voices on the tape have been authenticated but many have already concluded that it is a call between Mel Gibson and his ex-girlfriend Oksana Grigorieva. The couple are involved in a bitter custody battle over their 8-month-old daughter. No one has acknowledged leaking the tape.

But this is not the first time we have heard about Mel Gibson's temper, or about him making offensive comments. It was reported that he made an anti-gay comment when interviewed in 1991 by the Spanish newspaper El Pais. Years later, he explained his remarks in this way, "I shouldn't have said it, but I was tickling a bit of vodka during that interview, and the quote came back to bite me on the ass" (Wikipedia). He also apologized for the anti-Semitic and sexist comments he made in 2006 when he was arrested for drunk driving.

During the past few days I have heard many commentators discuss Mel Gibson's past outbursts and his arrest for drunk driving. What I did not hear, however, was any discussion about whether he has a mental illness. Mel Gibson has acknowledged that he has bipolar disorder. He was quoted as saying, ""I had really good highs, but some very low lows I found out recently I'm manic depressive." (The Huffington Post, July 13, 2010).

I can not be sure that the voice on the tape was actually Mr. Gibson's. The individual certainly sounded like he was manic. The speaker had what we say in psychology call, "rapid and pressured speech." Mania is a symptom of bipolar disorder (also known as manic depressive disorder). Bipolar disorder is thought to affect approximately 1 to 2% of the population. It is a serious disorder and approximately 10- 15% of people with bipolar disorder commit suicide (DSM-IV). It is associated with alcohol and substance abuse.

Mel Gibson has acknowledged his problems with alcohol. In 1992 he was quoted as saying, "Alcoholism is something that runs in my family. It's something that's close to me. People do come back from it, and it's a miracle"(Wikipedia). He was sentenced to probation for three years following his 2006 drunk driving arrest. As part of the probation he attended self help meetings for a year.

"Can Mel Gibson's career be saved?" "Will Mel Gibson be forgiven?" Since the release of this tape many people have asked these types of questions. Few, however, acknowledged the possibility that Mel Gibson may have a serious mental illness. This is not to excuse his behavior. What was said on that tape was reprehensible. And, if he did, in fact, hit Ms. Grigorieva, he may be charged with felony assault. It is my understanding that the police are conducting an investigation. If found guilty, he could serve up to four years.

What causes this kind of outburst? From a forensic psychologist's point of view, motivations are important to consider. This is what seems to be missing in the discussions about this released tape. If it is, indeed, the voice of Mel Gibson, his behavior could have been fueled by the alcohol, his personality, bipolar disorder, or a combination of all three.


About the Author

Cheryl Paradis, Psy.D.

Cheryl Paradis, Psy.D., is an associate professor of psychology at Marymount Manhattan College.