Opinion: The media needs to stop glorifying mental instability

Maggie Wachtel is a sophomore public relations major and a columnist for The Kent Stater. Contact her at [email protected].

Maggie Wachtel

It’s hard to go a day without seeing another troubled celebrity making headlines for his odd behavior. For the last year, it has been Amanda Bynes who has been the target of constant media scrutiny. And before that it was Britney Spears who received mass amounts of attention from the media.

The media have developed a pattern of pouncing on a public figure as soon as he or she begins to show signs of instability, because they know the people want to read about it. But what does the glorification of someone who is mentally ill or unstable say about our society? If the media hadn’t paid as much attention to Spears’ or Bynes’ odd behavior, would they have fallen as hard as they did?

Bynes first started displaying odd behavior in 2012, when she was arrested for driving under the influence. Her legal and behavioral struggles continued until she was committed against her will to a mental treatment center in 2013.

The media carefully documented her every move during her ordeal. It was obvious she needed serious help, but tabloids were more concerned about bombarding and provoking her.

This isn’t the first case of media exploitation. Spears famously dealt with a very public mental breakdown in 2007, which ended in her being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, but not before being hounded by the media and paparazzi.

She was seen shaving her head in a hair salon and also got into many public altercations with photographers and paparazzi, who followed her everywhere she went. It was obvious something was very wrong with Spears, and the tabloids and media loved it. Spears was on the cover of every tabloid magazine imaginable.

The same thing has happened with Bynes. The media are following her every move. It was clear from Bynes’ behavior that she needed help. The actress went on Twitter tirades where she would tweet ridiculous and absurd notions, only to delete them hours later; the media ate that up.

When Bynes arrived at LAX on Friday, she was hounded my photographers and she loved the attention. According to USA Today, she was seen talking to photographers and waving to them. The attention they give her feeds the insanity, so she continues to act bizarrely because she knows she has an audience. The attention then continues to make her mental state even more fragile.

She was re-committed against her will to a mental treatment center after landing at LAX on Friday.

Bipolar disorder is a mental illness that affects 5.7 million Americans over the age of 18, which adds up to 2.5 percent of the population, according to the National Institute of Mental Health. Bipolar disorder also becomes more obvious when a person abuses drugs and alcohol, which Bynes and Spears have both been accused of doing.

Although Bynes has yet to be diagnosed with any kind of mental disorder, it is apparent that something remains a little off with the actress. Bynes is just the latest target of the constant media attention, and there will be others. The mental instability of a person is not something that should be glamourized or mocked. It is something that should be taken seriously.