KONY 2012 Filmmaker Jason Russell Diagnosed with Reactive Psychosis

There have been a lot of questions lately about the viral video KONY 2012.

The film, created by Invisible Children, Inc., is the brainchild of filmmaker Jason Russell.  The film’s purpose is to promote the charity’s ‘Stop Kony’ movement which hopes to make indicted Ugandan war criminal Joseph Kony internationally known and will lead to his arrest. It has had over 85 million hits on YouTube!

But many have questioned the accuracy of the film, that the 33-year-old filmmaker had manipulated the facts to promote its cause.

And then came Russell’s apparent meltdown…

Last Thursday, Russell was taken into custody by San Diego authorities when he was found running naked in the streets of a Pacific Beach neighborhood.  He was reportedly shouting incoherently, and pounding his fists on the sidewalk. He was taken to a mental health facility for observation.

A statement today from his family says that Russell has been diagnosed with Brief Reactive Psychosis, and is likely to be hospitalized for quite some time:

Jason will get better…. He has a long way to go, but we are confident that he will make a full recovery. He is, and will remain, under hospital care for a number of weeks; and after that, the recovery process could take months before he is fully able to step back into his role with Invisible Children. During that time, we will focus not on a speedy recovery, but a thorough one.

What is Brief Reactive Psychosis?

Brief reactive psychosis is a sudden, short-term display of psychotic behavior, such as hallucinations or delusions, that occurs with a stressful event.

Brief reactive psychosis is triggered by extreme stress (such as a traumatic accident or loss of a loved one), and is followed by a return to the previous level of function. The person may or may not be aware of the strange behavior.

This condition most often affects people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s. People who have personality disorders are at greater risk for having a brief reactive psychosis.

Symptoms of brief reactive psychosis may include the following:

  • Disorganized behavior
  • False ideas about what is taking place (delusions)
  • Hearing or seeing things that aren’t real (hallucinations)
  • Strange speech or language

The symptoms are not due to alcohol or other drug abuse and they last longer than a day, but less than a month.

A psychiatric evaluation can confirm the diagnosis. A physical exam and laboratory testing can rule out medical illness as the cause of the symptoms.

By definition, psychotic symptoms go away on their own in less than 1 month. In some cases, however, brief reactive psychosis can be the beginning of a more chronic psychotic condition, such as schizophrenia or schizoaffective disorder. Antipsychotic drugs can help decrease or stop the psychotic symptoms.

Talk therapy may also help you cope with the emotional stress that triggered the problem.

Have you watched KONY 2012? What do you think about this movement?

Michele R. Berman, M.D. was Clinical Director of The Pediatric Center, a private practice on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. from 1988-2000, and was named Outstanding Washington Physician by Washingtonian Magazine in 1999. She was a medical internet pioneer having established one of the first medical practice websites in 1997. Dr. Berman also authored a monthly column for Washington Parent Magazine.

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