I have been a hairdresser for nine years. People talk about all kinds of things at the salon, from what they are wearing to prom to Kim Kardashian’s butt. While I was not currently enrolled in a mental health counseling program when Amanda Bynes began to have her public breakdown, mental health and the stigma surrounding symptoms and treatment have always been near and dear to me, and when I began to hear the way my clients talked about this behavior it became clear to me that something was very, very wrong in the way others perceived her pain.
A few weeks after Robin Williams died I came across this article. When I first read this article, it spoke to me on a number of levels, as a 90’s kid, I grew up watching Amanda Bynes on Nickelodean and there is no doubt in my mind that she was a naturally gifted comedian. As we both grew up, she transitioned her childhood fame into adult stardom and solidified her place as a talented leading lady. When I first began to hear reports of her bizarre behavior, I was concerned for her. Having dealt with mental health issues myself I could not even begin to imagine dealing alone and in the public eye. I am no doctor and while I had no right to diagnose Ms. Bynes, some of the reports combined with her own tweets painted a picture of a very strange behavior shift at best, full blown paranoid schizophrenia at worst.
And that’s when my clients began to put in their two cents. I heard all kinds of theories. These are the three most offensive to me, they truly highlight a lack of empathy for Amanda, as if somehow her fame stripped her of her person hood, and her mental illness was a joke, not a serious issue that could ultimately result in her death.
1) “God, she used to be so cute, I cant believe she grew up to be so crazy….some people just cant handle fame.” To the person who said this to me, she did not “grow up to be crazy” if she has a diagnosable mental illness then chances are that it onset sometime in her twenties, as most illnesses do, and chances are fame had nothing to do with it.
2) “Well that is what you get for smoking weed.” Oh, Texas. Haven’t we already established that while it may or not be a healthy activity, marijuana does not make you disconnect smoke detectors, talk to yourself in public, and post outrageous allegations on social media on a continuous basis. Marijuana may play some role in this story, but Amanda Bynes is not having a breakdown over weed.
3)”For Halloween I’m just going to wear a wig and sweatpants and go as Amanda Bynes.” It took all I had to not tell that client off right then and there that it is not okay to mock the mentally ill. If i had been anywhere but my job that day I would have snapped back at her that it would be just as offensive to go dressed as a cancer patient.
All three of these clients reminded me that while we have made great strides in our treatment of the mentally ill, we still have a lot of way to go on kindness, and as the article states, our apathy is very much a death sentence.