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Wife: 'Kony 2012' director suffers from psychosis

Published Mar. 22, 2012

SAN DIEGO — The director of a wildly popular video about brutal African warlord Joseph Kony has been diagnosed with brief psychosis and is expected to stay in the hospital for weeks, his wife said Wednesday.

Jason Russell, 33, was hospitalized last week after witnesses saw him pacing naked on a sidewalk, screaming incoherently and banging his fists on the pavement.

His outburst came after the video's sudden success on the Internet brought heightened scrutiny to Invisible Children, the group he co-founded in 2005 to fight African war atrocities. Russell narrates the 30-minute video, Kony 2012.

Russell's family said the filmmaker's bizarre behavior was not caused by drugs or alcohol. He was given a preliminary diagnosis of brief reactive psychosis, in which a person displays sudden psychotic behavior.

"Doctors say this is a common experience given the great mental, emotional and physical shock his body has gone through in these last two weeks. Even for us, it's hard to understand the sudden transition from relative anonymity to worldwide attention — both raves and ridicules, in a matter of days," Danica Russell said in a statement.

Researchers don't know how many people suffer from the condition, mainly because symptoms are fleeting, but those with personality disorders are at greater risk for having an episode. Brief reactive psychosis is triggered by trauma or major stress, such as an accident or the death of a loved one. Other stressors can include sleep deprivation or dehydration.

Symptoms include hallucinations, delusions and strange speech and behavior. People typically recover within a few weeks without medication. Others have to take antipsychotic drugs to alleviate symptoms or undergo talk therapy to cope.

Danica Russell said it may be months before her husband returns to San Diego-based Invisible Children.