Jason Russell’s diagnosis of brief reactive psychosis — what is it?
As you probably heard by now, Jason Russell — co-founder of the successful Invisible Children campaign and documentary filmmaker behind the viral “Kony 2012” video — suffered a breakdown in the streets of San Diego a couple of weeks ago. After being detained by police for running into the street in “various states of undress” and screaming nonsensical things, he was hospitalized for “exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition,” according to Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey. Last week, the family announced that he had been diagnosed with brief reactive psychosis.
While most people have heard of more common psychiatric conditions like depression or obsessive compulsive disorder, brief reactive psychosis is unfamiliar to most. To clarify, it’s no longer called brief reactive psychosis, even though many still refer to it by this name, which was used in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders III. The current version of the manual, the DSM-IV — which is used by psychiatric professionals to diagnose various mental conditions — refers to Russell’s condition as brief psychotic disorder.
The condition is often triggered by extreme stress, such as a traumatic accident or loss of a loved one, and lasts for at least one day but no longer than one month. According to the DSM-IV, brief psychotic disorder is a “disturbance that involves the sudden onset of at least one of the following psychotic symptoms: delusions, hallucinations, disorganized speech [such as incoherence or the inability to hold a conversation], or grossly disorganized or catatonic behavior.” An individual is diagnosed with brief psychotic disorder if these symptoms cannot be explained by alcohol, other drugs or symptoms of pre-existing personality disorders.
Russell’s wife, Danica Russell, explained in a statement that the unexpected popularity of the “Kony 2012” video, which also led to unexpected criticism, may have contributed to Jason’s meltdown.
“We thought a few thousand people would see the film, but in less than a week, millions of people around the world saw it,” Danica Russell said. “While that attention was great for raising awareness about Joseph Kony, it also brought a lot of attention to Jason — and, because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal, and Jason took them very hard.”
Brief psychotic disorder is a rare condition, especially in developed countries, and usually manifests in people in their late 20s or early 30s. The symptoms disappear on their own in less than a month, but antipsychotic drugs are sometimes given to patients in order to cut the psychosis short. According to the DSM-IV, pre-existing personality disorders, such as schizotypal or borderline personality disorder, may predispose individuals to the development of brief psychotic disorder.
Russell’s family stated that Jason will recover, but it could take months. Danica urged supporters to “keep your attention turned to the end of Africa’s longest-running conflict, and setting a precedent for all future injustice.”
If you haven’t watched it yet, you can check out the “Kony 2012” video below.