A Man Named Jason… And Why I Cried

Image via Be You Own Kind of Beautiful

I don’t cry a lot.  I am an emotional person and that means that I feel things strongly.  I have wanted to cry at many times recently but it just hasn’t happened.  But now it has.  It’s amazing how something in which I have no involvement can affect me so deeply, but I guess I just hate it when I see someone being treated so badly.

Jason Russell of Invisible Children speaks at ...
Jason Russell of Invisible Children speaks at TEDxSanDiego in December 2011 – _MG_4054 (Photo credit: sean dreilinger)

Through my Facebook page Infinite Sadness or what I learnt of a man named Jason.  He’s obviously been on the news, particularly in United States, but somehow I had never heard him.  Maybe this news didn’t get as far as New Zealand, or maybe I was otherwise occupied when I should have been paying attention.  If you have heard of him, then you are probably having some thoughts about what you know so far.  I would be interested to know what your first thoughts are when you read his name here.  It seems his name is one which inspires strong feeling.

Jason Russell is a man who has recently suffered what is known as a ‘Brief Reactive Psychosis‘ as a result of extreme stress.  Before this happened he had become known for being the founder of the Invisible Children group and was behind the Kony 2012 documentary.  That highlighted human atrocities in Uganda by Joseph Kony, who forced thousands of children into sex slavery, while turning others into child soldiers to further his warped agenda (1.).  I’m not going to go into more detail because it’s not the point I want to make.  That said, searching the names I have mentioned will easily bring the details to your eyes.  It’s not the point I want to make because while the suffering of the children appalls me, what has happened to Jason Russell personally shocks me and leaves me thinking ‘there but for the grace of God go I’.

That’s not what made me cry either although it appalls me that I could face something similar.  It’s not even the criticism Invisible Children have had over how they spend their money.  What I care about, and it made me cry is the way this man (or any man or woman for that matter) has been treated as a result of his mental illness.  This man should never have become the victim of media and the general public who have found it funny to highlight his downfall into psychosis.  There are masses of clips of this man in a way I would never want to be portrayed.  I’m not showing them to you because I’m not prepared to join the bandwagon of mocking a man because of his mental illness, and giving those that posted them the satisfaction of more people watching.  And actually for the same reason, I didn’t watch them myself.  I saw the first scene frozen on my screen before me of a naked man, in public, clearly doing things you wouldn’t want to be seen doing.

My heart breaks because this man is ill.  He has a mental illness, which is now being treated, but it caused him to (probably unknowingly) do something that has caught the attention of the masses who choose to see it as a joke.  There is no joke in mental illness, ever.  I don’t know this man, and it could be anyone in the same situation but why do people choose to laugh at another’s pain?  I grew up and still believe in the philospohy to let the one who has never fallen cast the first stone.

I had my own psychotic episode back in 2001.  I was hospitalised as Jason Russell has been.  I largely kept from those around me, what that psychosis entailed because I knew I risked being seen as a joke.  I never went naked in a city street but my reality was that I believed that the  events of 9/11 in 2001 were my fault.  I believed that those thousands that died, died because of me.  I had reasons for believing this and there wasn’t a doubt in my mind.  I thought I had triggered the end of the world.  At the same time I also believed that I needed to kill someone who was very close to me.  Even though I had never before had such thoughts, I was now seriously considering how to do it.  As it was the person was not in the city in which I lived but I was told that if I took a step out of my city, then I would be arrested.  11 years on it is possible to smile about this but really there was absolutely nothing funny about what my mind had convinced me.  I was sick and I needed help.

Several weeks ago I had a conversation with an acquaintance in United States about how I suspected the stigma associated with mental illness was greater in New Zealand than in America.  We discussed how in the States it seemed more acceptable to have some form of mental illness.  But if the case of Jason Russell , who is somewhat of a public figure there, is anything to go by the stigma is still alive and well there.  I’m not in that country and I’m not here to judge.  Actually I suspect if Jason was a public figure in New Zealand people would unfortunately be just as quick to pour laughter and scorn on his suffering.

Yes, because I have a mental illness myself I am maybe sensitive to such stories.  But I’d like to think it would make me cry regardless.  In my view it’s just not acceptable to laugh at, judge, or condemn any person for their suffering and pain.  I’d like to see You Tube remove the clips of this incident and I’d like to see the media do an about-face and apologise and support this man.  I’d like to see individuals say this is not okay to treat another human being like this.  Am I asking too much?  I don’t think so.

It is well known that one in four people will encounter mental illness in their lifetime.  That is huge.  The chances are it could be you next, or the person who released the video.  None of us know what lies ahead of us.  None of us know who the next person to suffer will be.  None of us are exempt.  That cries out to me that we need to treat our fellow human with compassion.  Changing the world might be expecting too much, but compassion from each individual would be a great way to start.

PS.  If you’re saying to yourself ‘I’m just one person and what can I do?’ Well, we can all start with caring for the person next to us.  Every little bit helps.  Another thing you could do is share what I have written.  Let’s see if others feel the same.  And if the world can begin to change.

“No man is a true believer unless he desireth for his brother  that which he desireth for himself”

 Muhammad (P.B.U.H)


10 thoughts on “A Man Named Jason… And Why I Cried

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  5. We seem to delight in another’s misfortune; its justification for all suffering. It often crowds out our own troubles and provides an explanation for the mystery of pain.
    Jason’s misfortune, his suffering and pain have a name. It is a classifiable affliction with universal assumptions and opinions. Most of them ill informed.

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