The Mighty Logo

To the Internet Hecklers Capitalizing on Jake Lloyd's Schizophrenia Diagnosis

The most helpful emails in health
Browse our free newsletters

Civilian or celebrity, if you have a mental illness, you can’t run away from it. It will not be ignored. Rather, it will track you down, wrestle you to the ground — and potentially, even immobilize you and steal your life. 

Star Wars’ actor Jake Lloyd — who played Anakin Skywalker in “Episode I, The Phantom Menace” — lives with schizophrenia.

According to his mother, Lloyd was off his meds when he physically attacked her last year. A few weeks later, he led the police on a high-speed car chase through Charleston, South Carolina, hitting speeds of 117 miles per hour before crashing into a bunch of trees.

Since that time, Lloyd has been held in jail for ten months and is only now being transferred to a psychiatric facility. I think this demonstrates the breakdown in our criminal justice system: how did it take close to a year for the courts to determine that someone with schizophrenia who’d gone off his medication and had committed a criminal act needed to be transferred?  Why was it not glaringly and immediately obvious that a psychiatric facility was the more appropriate rehabilitative place for him? I am angry that it took so long, but mollified he is now receiving proper care.

The internet thinks it’s a big hilarious joke, though. In fact, most online commenters seem positively delighted that Lloyd is ill and that they’re provided a public forum to humiliate. People are cruel, and, when it comes to mental illness, the stigma remains intact.

It’s the Amanda Bynes debacle all over again. Remember what happened with her? Let me remind you: she had that well-publicized mental breakdown in 2014 and then tweeted she was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. Instead of being satisfied with an explanation for Bynes’ bizarre and erratic behavior, the public continued to go completely apeshit over the opportunity to mock herShe quickly became the butt of cruel internet and talk show jokes for a long time thereafter.

The insensitivity concerning mental illness is universal in our culture; it’s pretty disgusting if you think about it:

When was the last time you heard someone casually use the term bipolar to assign a personality trait-descriptive instead of using words like temperamental or moody?  

“I don’t know what’s wrong with my girlfriend, she’s acting so bipolar.” 

Or as an adjective to describe something?  

‘The toaster oven usually works, but it’s been freaking out lately, it’s like, bipolar.’

Bipolar disorder and schizophrenia are legitimate diseases. They need to be respected as such.  

You wouldn’t treat someone with cancer that way, would you?

I know I won’t convince a lot of people with this post; possibly not any. I accept that fact. Stigmas are stigmas.  

But I can’t sit idly by while I see anyone who is mentally ill, celebrity or civilian, disparaged for being sick. Mental illness is not a choice; it’s a disease. And we should show some respect for those who are sick. 

Lead image source: Jake Lloyd and Anakin Skywalker

Originally published: April 13, 2016
Want more of The Mighty?
You can find even more stories on our Home page. There, you’ll also find thoughts and questions by our community.
Take Me Home