Jason Russell, Kony 2012 Director; Photo Courtesy of Facebook
Despite the many conflicting reports about Jason Russell's naked breakdown in the middle of a busy San Diego intersection, the Kony 2012 director was not arrested last Thursday. Instead, he was placed on a 5150 psychiatric hold. Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey recorded a video message in response to Russell's breakdown, saying that the 33-year-old director felt intense pressure.
San Diego police told NBC7 that they had received numerous calls around 11:30 a.m. on March 15 reporting a man in various stages of undress. Jason Russell was reportedly dancing at the intersection of Ingraham and Riviera streets wearing speedo-like underwear. According to the Los Angeles Times, callers said Russell had removed his underwear and was nude, perhaps masturbating. Some reported him pounding his fists and yelling.
Jason Russell was detained after indecent exposure, vandalism (pounding on cars with his fists) and alleged public intoxication, reported Reuters. A video of Jason Russell's erratic, bizarre behavior was caught on camera. The video quickly went viral.
Russell supposedly suffered a mental breakdown, blamed on exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition. The callers reported the underwear-clad male was in the street, interfering with traffic, screaming, yelling incoherently and pounding his fists on the sidewalk, according to a statement released by police spokeswoman Lt. Andra Brown. He continued to act in a bizarre and irrational manner.
Due to the nature of the detention, he was not arrested, Lt. Andra Brown told media outlets. During the evaluation we learned we probably needed to take him to a medical facility because of statements he was saying.
Jason Russell on 5150 Psychiatric Hold
On Monday evening, Reuters reported that Jason Russell was being held on a 5150 psychiatric hold, via an Us Weekly report. The fifty-one fifty hold, referring to Section 5150 of California's Welfare and Institutions Code, is an involuntary psychiatric hold. This allows law enforcement to take an individual into custody if his mental condition makes him a danger to himself or others.
The 5150 psychiatric hold can keep a person under evaluation in a medical facility for up to 72 hours. In Russell's case, it is unclear whether that 72 hours has expired yet, as the 72-hour period depends on a particular facility's schedule and may or may not include Saturdays, Sundays and holidays.
A police officer or clinician can move to extend that 72-hour stay, according to Reuters, if deemed necessary. This falls into the 5250 hold category under California law. However, a court hearing is required to obtain this extension.
Invisible Children CEO, Ben Keesey, Speaks
Invisible Children CEO Ben Keesey sat down for a video response to Jason Russell's breakdown. At this point, over 83 million people have viewed the Kony 2012 video directed by the 33-year-old and countless others have viewed Russell's bizarre naked fiasco as well.
These last two weeks have been tough, really tough, he began. Initially, Invisible Children's goal was for the Kony 2012 video to hit just 500,000. The skyrocketing success of the video was incredible, but it also came with the attention and the pressure of the global media spotlight.
And that was hard for all of us, but it was especially hard for Jason because the story was so personal for him and his family. And that pressure took a serious toll on him and unfortunately the whole world saw that, said Keesey.
Keesey said that Invisible Children has received an influx of encouraging messages from fans and advocates offering their support.
Ben Keesey initially released a statement to TMZ blaming Russell's breakdown on exhaustion, dehydration and malnutrition.
His statement said, He is now receiving medical care and is focused on getting better. The past two weeks have taken a severe emotional toll on all of us, Jason especially, and that toll manifested itself in an unfortunate incident yesterday. Jason's passion and his work have done so much to help so many, and we are devastated to see him dealing with this personal health issue. We will always love and support Jason, and we ask that you give his entire family privacy during this difficult time.
Jason Russell's wife, Danica, also released a statement on behalf of her family.
Because of how personal the film is, many of the attacks against it were also very personal and Jason took them very hard, the statement said. Jason has dedicated his adult life to this cause, leading to [the] KONY 2012 [video]. We thought a few thousand people would see the film, but in less than a week, millions of people around the world saw it.
The statement concluded with: On our end, the focus remains only on his health, and protecting our family. We'll take care of Jason, you take care of the work. The message of the film remains the same: Stop at nothing.
Will Jason Russell's Breakdown Hurt Kony 2012 Campaign?
Jason Russell's very public and very bizarre breakdown has attracted the attention of many; yet this attention might not bode well for the Invisible Children's Kony 2012 campaign, which has already faced extreme criticism running the gamut from misuse of funds to exaggerated claims.
He got a lot of criticism for this, and he may not be as internally resilient as someone needs to be to weather a storm of criticism like that, Alan Hilfer, chief psychologist at Maimonides Medical Center in New York City, told ABC News. It might have been such a tremendous injury to his ego that he just sort of fell apart.
Although Hilfer has not treated Russell nor does he know about Russell's medical history, he said that worry and self-doubt can lead to sleep problems and insufficient self-care. Both of these can spark irrational behavior.
Sometimes we see this in response to people not taking good care of themselves when they're under great deal of stress and pressure, Hilfer told ABC News. They become overwhelmed and anxious and it interferes with their ability to sleep. Without treatment, it can cause disorientation and mental confusion.
Hilfer did attest to the dehydration claim, saying that lack of proper fluids can absolutely cause all the signs of mental confusion he seemed to be experiencing. However, he added that severe dehydration is typically brought on by illness.
In order to recover on a personal level, Jason Russell needs support now more than ever. All of these things can help somebody put it back together again, said Hilfer. Being able to step away from limelight and recognize priorities and what options and alternatives there are is also important.
Whether or not his professional career can be salvaged is an entirely separate matter.