Amanda Bynes

Another child star proves need to teach coping skills

Amanda Bynes

Amanda Bynes

Actress Amanda Bynes could remain in a mental health facility for up to two weeks after authorities detained her Monday night in front of a Thousand Oaks home. But before she can make progress she will need to learn, and probably should have been taught, as should all children, coping skills. How do we deal with career setbacks, rejection and pressures of everyone around us wanting something and then with the sudden emptiness when career opportunities disappear?

The chances of something good emanating from the tragic Amanda Bynes story are not so great. Something happened in the life of the now 27-year old former child star of the Nickelodeon series All That and The Amanda Show, that triggered her mental illness.

The something that happened in her case is clearly both biochemical and psychological—the so-called pressure of her stardom (though most of us would welcome such “pressure”) might have been less damaging than the loss of that stardom as her name and fame began to recede and she came to feel she was just another used up child star without a promising future; complicating matters are her drug dependency problems, including alcohol and marijuana, having been arrested for driving under the influence in California and throwing a bong out of her New York City apartment comically claiming it was a flower pot. Such drug use is symptomatic of deeper psychological problems in dealing with one's life; it also allows, or rather forces, a disintegration of ego, the psyche’s last defense against schizophrenia or split personality. She may also be suffering from low physical self-esteem, judging from her attacks on others’ perceived beauty flaws.

Having lost her license due to drunk driving earlier and facing New York state drug charges, Bynes was most recently hospitalized after setting a fire in front of a Thousand Oaks home (not hers) on a 51-50 charge, a California statute that allows authorities to detain a person thought to be a danger to themself or others for 72 hours (or longer after a court hearing). In this case, she also had poured gasoline on her dog, endangering the canine.

Amanda’s case is not as easy as taking a trip to rehab; she is a dual-diagnosis patient who must deal with both chemical substance abuse as well as mental health issues. It won't be as simple as going off to Betty Ford.

Her case reminds us of Britney Spears who was also thought to be suffering a mental disorder during the disintegration of her marriage to Kevin Federline, losing her children, shaving her head and exhibiting bizarre behaviors. Spears has made it back, although still under a conservatorship. Perhaps Bynes will.

Apparently we don’t teach children how to cope with failure or how to solve problems. We expect them to learn the hard way by falling and picking themselves up again. Kids learn few if any coping skills—which are even more valuable to those with susceptibility to mental illness.

Her parents, meanwhile, are petitioning the court to set up a conservatorship. However, Amanda’s hatred for her parents will interfere with her trust. In addition, her attorneys are running legal interference, assuring everyone she is just fine. Therefore, she will most likely refuse all treatments and certainly anything they recommend. She will have to hit rock bottom and spend time in jail and watch her life become a shambles before she hits rock bottom and, as another famous child star, Lindsey Lohan, has shown even that might not be quite enough.

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