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Amanda Bynes and Schizophrenia: Should Her Parents Get Conservatorship?

Latest from Perez Hilton, the National Enquirer and other gossip (oh, excuse me, entertainment news) sites: “Is Amanda Bynes Schizophrenic?

Ignoring for the moment how much we hate that term “schizophrenic”, let’s get to the heart of the reported issue.

Amanda is not doing well, and her parents are worried.

How well I know the feeling.

Must We Wait Until Disaster to Help?

Amanda Bynes Arrested
Amanda Bynes Arrested

Amanda has been acting very strangely, her parents are worried, and there seems to be no way for them to have any power to help – at least, not until she is a clear harm to herself or others. That is: until disaster strikes.

Sorry, but it’s true. This is shameful. Debate-worthy, yes, but a problem we ourselves have faced as parents of a young adult who seldom acts like one.

And we are not alone.

Conservatorship and Mental Illness

Amanda has tweeted paranoid suspicions on twitter, has shaved her head, has had numerous traffic violations and a recent drug arrest.

According to Radar Online, her parents Rick and Lynn are

bynes family
Amanda, looking healthier, with parents

“concerned” and have moved from Texas to Los Angeles to be closer to her. They are trying (so far in vain) to get a temporary conservatorship, a move that appears to have helped Britney Spears after similar odd behaviors and suspected bipolar disorder led her father to petition for the same rights.

What’s going on, according to her parents?

“Amanda has heard voices for years, and was concerned she was being spied on via smoke alarms, and clocks in her home. She would cover electronic items because Amanda believed that was the only way she wouldn’t be spied on. It’s extremely sad situation because Amanda just refuses to get help.”

Parents as Caregivers: Valuable – and Exhausted

“Refuses to get help.” How many times have we heard that?

Amanda Bynes is 27. My son, Ben, is 31. I have conservatorship, which is both helpful and exhausting.

Helpful, how?

Ben:

  • takes his meds
  • has a part-time job
  • is law-abiding
  • attends meetings for sobriety, and
  • does well in college classes – 63 credits so far

Exhausting?

  • we have to be home twice a day to supervise meds
  • he may be getting resentful of my “control” over his life – that adolescent eye-roll is returning
  • Ben can drive, but has no car and is not insured on our vehicle – so Mom’s Taxi Service continues
  • who knows what may happen tomorrow?

Look, it’s far from ideal. Ben has been living with us for almost two years – after eight years in supervised housing – and until recently it has been very successful. But now, he is getting more symptomatic, and we’re not yet sure why. Part of it could be that Ben is getting resentful of our role as caregivers.

So I am working on a plan to transfer some responsibility carefully back to his “team.” Amanda’s parents are in the opposite position: how do they get some right to help?

From the same articles on Radar Online:

“Rick & Lynn have met with several lawyers that handle conservatorships in the past month, because they want to get a conservatorship of their daughter. They have been advised that even as disturbing as Amanda’s behavior is, it’s very unlikely that a judge would sign off on a temporary conservatorship.” (italics are mine)

The truth is, they probably won’t be able to get any rights, even though Amanda clearly needs guidance.  When will the legal system understand that “of sound mind” must be a part of independence? I imagine her parents are feeling quite helpless.

Even when our children are of legal age to make decisions, are they of legal ability?

Certainly a question to address. I wish Amanda, and her parents, the wisdom and love to get to a place of wellness, whatever that takes.

12 thoughts on “Amanda Bynes and Schizophrenia: Should Her Parents Get Conservatorship?”

  1. Any suggestions I asked her mom to remove her phone, computer and any contact with her friends. (Her therapist said no she needs the socialization). I say Remove her from the school and place her in another learning situation. My daughter is following the therapists suggestion. Im only a grand but i feel the wrong decision is being made. Keep her in this situation and I am afraid she will follow through with her threats —Mind My own business I think I am, Maybe not you tell me of your opinion

  2. Im a grandparent who is support for my daughter who has to children with mental illness. One is Bi-Polar,
    ADHD, High function Autisum, speech defects and a IQ of 73, The other is a 15 year old girl who has cutting issues and now has 2 suicide attempts and hospitalizations to her mental health treatment.
    The Boy is 22 years and mom is trying to get housing his mental health is managed by seeing doctors and Therapy once a month. Medicine has been changed Removed from Abilify and put on a Med that seems to be helping his mood swings. Can get hyper but seems to be managing well. with new meds. My concern is for the 15 year old girl who is now in a treatment center for 10 days because of her second suicide attempt. She has issues of involving herself with the same people with issues similar to hers in school. At home she has developed a relationship with a girl younger that her which has convinced our girl she is gay ? She has also been on the computer or phone with boys who have claimed to love her and want to be with her. Then she finds out the boys are playing a game with all the girls they hang around with. This devastated my grand. The only Person she has told about here last visit to a treatment center is a 16 year boy who is among the group that have been texting these girls. She was very upset for about two weeks. Then attempted suicide again stating she felt she was no good and the boy who knew he attempted suicide the first time was involved this time also . Then she turns around and texted him all that night to get help

  3. Anyone interested in SZ and what it can do to a family should read, January First by Michael Schofield. And that deals with a daughter who was just a six or 7 year old child.

    God knows what it must be like to have a grown child with SZ.

    1. Hi Carl –
      yep, it’s an eye-opening book. They went through so much doubt, confusion, fear, frustration and blame – how well we know the feeling! Imagine when those feelings continue, and then you are told you no longer have the “legal right” to help you child….
      thanks for your comment,
      Randye

  4. I recently got LPS conservatorship just last month for my son, what made it easier was I did attain Mr Terry Wasserman in Manhattan Beach, who specializes in Mental Court. Anyone in LA County that needs such guidance should give him a call. You won’t have any regrets.

  5. I have a sister who was diagnosed a few years ago with schizo-affective disorder. She is in her early 30’s, hears voices all day long and is convinced it is her neighbors (She’s even called the cops on the voices before), is starting to online shop out of control & hoard the boxes, does not clean her apartment, will not leave her run down apartment for sometimes two weeks, has never learned how to drive… and has a 2 year old son in all of this. She is on SSI and public medical insurance, but the docs are so overbooked that they just throw her on high doses of Lithium and send her home for 2 months. Our family is ready to help in anyway possible, but we are not professionals, we don’t know what to do or where to send her for help. I think she needs a few weeks/months if intense therapy & supervision to get her meds straight and to talk it all out – she actually WANTS help and is AWARE of her illness. But we can;t find any available resources in California. What can we do?? The “voices” are constantly telling her that she is a bad parent, a bad person. We are afraid for our nephew, and for their safety and health. Please help?

    1. Hi Susie, thanks for sharing your story. Very few outside of this community seem to realize the burden on the family, and the fear some of us live with every day. If your sister wants help (with is a huge thing, believe me!) then contact local social services, NAMI, and/or a lawyer who specializes in mental health cases and take action. I don’t know the California system, but you may want to begin on the website of NAMI CA – or call the helpline at NAMI national.

      My heart goes out to you all, especially your nephew. Once again, let me recommend the books Defying Mental Illness and When Someone You Love Has a Mental Illness,as well as NAMI’s Family-to-Family program.

      hang in there,
      Randye

  6. The reason that it is so difficult to get conservatorship is b/c we live in a country where we are lucky to have many types of freedom that do not exist in most other countries in the world. Once someone is 18 they are considered, legally, an adult and are therefore able to make their own decisions regardless of whether others think these decisions are right/wrong or good/bad, and, whether these decisions cause negative consequences. Historically, those suffering from some form of different or aberrant behavior have had zero rights. Although I can certainly understand parents’ heartache and sense of powerlessness when their children behave erratically and make poor decisions, I believe that those of us with mental illness should not be easily ‘controlled’ just b/c people are concerned about our behavior and/or well-being. There are many others in our society that cause suffering and death to others through criminal activity but I don’t see anyone clamoring for ‘conservatorship’ for these individuals. Why should those of us with a mental illness be singled out?
    Not only have I suffered, severely, with a mental illness for over 40 years but I have also been a licensed psychotherapist for 20 years; therefore, I have seen both sides of this issue first hand. I believe that those of us with mental/emotional illnesses and disorders are treated as second class citizens in many spheres of our society, especially by the medical profession, pharmaceutical companies and many parts of the media. Instead of telling those of us with mental illness (and do people know what a wide swath of illnesses and disorders there are in the term ‘mental illness’?) what to do, people need to start asking us what it is that WE NEED to feel better and to feel like valued members of society. Until we know what the questions are, the answers will always be driven by money and outsiders, and, oftentimes these answers are predicated on misinformation or theories that are just that, theories.

    1. thank you all for this discussion, and I truly appreciate hearing your thoughts.

      I by no means am advocating for an across-the-board conservatorship that would affect everyone with mental illness; certainly each case is individual, and many who live with mental illness are in absolutely no need of one.

      But, in my son’s case, he would probably be homeless, imprisoned, or dead right now if we hadn’t stepped in when we needed to. Our conservatorship is meant to guide him, as he was far from a functional adult when he was a legal adult.

      Sure, who does the defining? But certainly walking along a busy highway screaming about “psychic vampires” can’t be a good way to live. Neither is wandering the neighborhood at night, frightening families with strange gestures and mumbling. Neither is an apartment so dirty from neglect that the roaches come from everywhere. Nor is walking 20 miles in search of a “friend”, and winding up eating snack food on the floor inside a CVS for dinner, a very safe way to live. In that case, without parental “interference”, I fear jail would have been the only option the police would have had for my son – if he hadn’t been run over by a car first.

      My son is slowly rebuilding his future now. He manages his money well, goes to school, and has a part-time job. But he still needs guidance, and supervision of treatment. Believe me, I live for the day when I no longer have to be his conservator. That will not only mean Ben’s “freedom”, but mine and my husband’s as well – since it will mean he will have gotten to the place of self-reliance we so wish for him. Not three weeks ago, he was in danger of losing his job, and his friends, because his symptoms had returned. He had not taken his meds. Our vigilance paid off in that he is now back to the things that he treasures – and almost lost, without seeming to care when not in treatment.

      He is not yet where you are, knowing what he needs to feel better. I pray someday he will be. Believe me.

      Every case is individual, and no parent can be there all the time, mental illness or not. But we try. And if Amanda Bynes is putting her own life in danger – and possibly those of others, with erratic driving at the very least – how can anyone stand by and just accept that she “refuses help”? If she had Alzheimers, no one would question the need for guidance.

      We need, at least, the option to give that guidance when our loved ones still need it. But, no, not across the board for everyone! I am so glad you are doing so well. My utmost respect and congratulations!
      Randye

  7. Dean, first I’m going to guess you are not type 2 with schizoid delusional outbresks. second Ii must note that you do not have anosognosia…you are aware you are b.p. and since you have admited so, i further see you are not in denial. hence you are not a good target for recievership or involuntary commitment.
    lucky you. not all are so lucky and to compound the bad luck, the system, frankly, does not seem to give a hoot and it’s hard to get them off the street till someone is dead or in the process of becoming dead. unlucky them. unlucky friends and family of them and other victims of the “patients rights” excesses we have today. it should be difficult, but less so than at present.

  8. It should be difficult to get control of an adult’s life. I am a bp patient, not a parent. But, the idea of giving up control to make my own medical choices is something so radical, I can’t imagine doing it. If the “patient” doesn’t fit the legal requirement for a 72 hour hold, then I’m not sure what the answer is.

    Again, I am not a parent, so I do not know this particular pain or feeling of responsibility.

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