On June 30th, openly gay model Krit McClean stripped and streaked through Times Square. During his run, he demanded a meeting with Republican nominee Donald Trump. In response to his extremely public meltdown, the Columbia University student wrote an eloquent essay for the New York Post that outlined the consequences of undiagnosed mental illness.
McClean discussed the incidents leading up to the event:
It all started the week before. I became transfixed with the color yellow. I had never experienced anything so strange, but I didn’t realize anything was wrong.
I’m an artist, so I channeled this feeling into painting everything in my apartment yellow. I painted my shoes, clothes and photographs yellow and made a yellow costume to wear.
I also started following taxis.
I started to associate certain things with positivity and others with negativity. If I saw something I liked, like yellow, or art books or the Sullivan Street Bakery, I would gravitate to it.
He then elaborated on his relationship with his friends and family, and claimed he had fearfully retreated to his parent’s house the night before the episode:
“I have to sleep outside tonight,” I told my worried father. “People are coming, and they’re going to kill everyone in the family.” He stood in the doorway to block me, but I pushed him out of my way.
I walked to the southern tip of Roosevelt Island, took off my shoes so the “evil people” couldn’t hear my footsteps, and climbed over a cement wall to the water.
That night, I slept stretched out over the rocks, believing mermaids were keeping me safe.
The 21-year-old reflects on the frightening experience of waking up at Bellevue Hospital, restrained to his bed, nursing stitches in his arm. McClean spent three weeks in the hospital, and doctors eventually diagnosed him as bipolar.
Currently, he’s on medication to treat his illness, and he goes to therapy. McClean is in the process of rebuilding his life and career, which were inevitably tainted by the ordeal.
I’m still trying to fix the damage in other parts of my life. Ford Models no longer represents me. Columbia is holding a disciplinary hearing. I faced criminal charges in court.
Most reactions have been punitive and don’t come from a place of understanding of mental illness. That is why I am going public — to help others with mental illness who battle constant judgments and stigmas. In sharing my experience, I hope to start a dialogue. I’m now involved with the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
We can all relate to being judged and misunderstood. We have all at some point been the “weird” one, whether in the classroom, gym or office. But if we approach each other with empathy, openness, and sensitivity instead of judgment, we might just learn from one another.
According to National Institute of Mental Health, 2.6 percent of the U.S. population 18 and older suffers from bipolar disorder. It’s a debilitating illness that, if untreated, can shatter the lives of those affected. Good luck to you, Krit!