Soapbox Issues

Mental Health Excuse

Has anyone else here in Australia had enough of Matthew Newton? I am not here to glorify his stupid behaviour but I do want to make a point.

Let’s remember, this is a man who has had one charge of assaulting his former girlfriend squashed by the judge who thought he’d never do it again. Yeah, right! She was smart enough to leave him. His next girlfriend had an AVO (apprehended violence order) against him after he assaulted her and she feared for her life. Following this came the claims by his lawyer and all the other publicists that he had mental health problems. He has also been charged for allegedly assaulting a taxi driver here in Sydney, resisting arrest in Miami and lately, assaulting a hotel receptionist in Miami. But apparently, because he has mental health problems, he is excused. You have got to think that because it comes up in every story about him. Every time he messes up, we are reminded how he has had problems with his mental health.

And this is where I have an issue.  

Where people blame mental health for their behaviour. Unless you have a psychotic mental health problem like schizphrenia you cannot use mental health as an excuse for your behaviour. The reason is that with psychosis, you are not always in control of your faculties and you are capable of believing the voices and the delusions. However, depression, anxiety, panic attacks, and even addiction are NOT an excuse for bad behaviour. You don’t see every depressed individual out there punching people. You don’t see every anxious person getting into fights. And in the same way, not all people who assault their partners have a mental health problem. A personality problem, maybe. But not an excusable mental health problem.

Sadly, people like Matthew Newton give a bad name to those suffering from depression, anxiety and the like. Let’s face it…the general public’s knowledge about mental health is pretty basic. When they see someone in the limelight behaving in this manner and claiming mental health as their saviour, they are likely to assume that others with mental health problems are going to behave in this way too. Which is not fair to most people with genuine problems.

It’s about time the media stop writing about Matthew Newton’s mental health problems. And if he is found guilty of his latest assault, maybe he should be gaoled. That’s the only way he is eventually going to learn to take responsibility for his actions. Then again, he might not. But at least we won’t hear about him!

Until next time,


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  • E.
    25 April 2012 at 5:08 am

    I’ve known a few people who use their mental health issues as an excuse. They were unable to take responsibility for their actions and their bad behaviour was always chalked up to having a mental health issue.

    I find it hard to deal with. I don’t believe that mental illness is (or should be) an excuse for bad behaviour. That said I do understand that it can take a while to get medications correct and that the mental health system can suck.

    In some cases people should take responsibility for their own behaviour and te choices that they make.

    • Psych Babbler™
      28 April 2012 at 6:43 am

      You have a point there E re medication trials until which one is the right one. And yes, the system is nowhere near perfect…working in it, I know. But I sometimes get quite annoyed when kids with Oppositional Defiant Disorder or Conduct Disorder use it as a reason for their bad behaviour when in fact it’s the other way round…they got the diagnoses because of the behaviour!

  • Fiona
    27 April 2012 at 12:08 am

    If he’s found guilty, and it is because of his mental health issues, shuldn’t he be ordered into treatment if he is a danger? That treatment may need to be behind bars for the safety of others.

    • Psych Babbler™
      28 April 2012 at 6:44 am

      I agree Fiona…and he shouldn’t be let out until he has completed the treatment and no longer poses a risk to the community.

  • Julia
    27 April 2012 at 1:25 am

    I think that is a little bit harsh.

    i don’t know what exactly is going on for Matthew Newton – certainly I agree he is feeding a very negative much-loved media stereotype that ‘people with mental health issues’ are unpredictable and dangerous – because in the main people with mental healthy issues don’t go around assaulting people willy-nilly – and that gets up my nose (although that is perhaps the media’s fault not matthew netwons). However, people who have a range of mental health issues (not just psychoses) are to some extent (maybe not entirely but perhaps more so than others) at the mercy of their symptoms which may lead them to have lower impulse control and hyper-emotional responses that suddenly come on, without warning and in an environment that is antagonistic. they are not in control of those symptoms and the effect of those symptoms made lead to situations where there control over their behaviour is much reduced. So i don’t think they can or should be held entirely responsible for that.

    I take your point that blaming your mental health issues for your bad behaviour is not a good thing, but i also think that people who are experiencing problems controlling their behaviour need our empathy rather than judgement.

    • Psych Babbler™
      28 April 2012 at 11:01 am

      Welcome here Julia! I admit it’s a bit harsh but I reckon it’s also possibly because I am so over this. If I remember rightly, there have been claims about a mood disorder, addiction problems and social anxiety and panic attacks for Matthew Newton. I think the problem I have with lack of responsibility is that apart from psychoses, there is proper treatment available for all mental health problems including the impulse control disorders like ADHD. There are people though who choose not to go on medication which works for ADHD so yes, I do reckon they are choosing to not take responsibility. And if that’s the case, they cannot blame the mental health problem because they are choosing to not engage in the treatment. IF you think about court rulings where mental health is used as a reason to plead not guilty, that only occurs with psychotic illnesses like schizophrenia and again, that’s because the person is not in control and sometimes even not in control to take their medication. I can be very empathic and am the biggest advocate for mental health but I get angry when people like Matthew Newton appear to be the poster child for mental health when most individuals are not like him but suffer in silence.

  • Julia
    30 April 2012 at 12:34 pm

    Thanks for your welcome. i’ve been popping in and reading for a little while, i enjoy your posts.

    Yes there are treatments available for other mental health issues, but when medication is involved it can have very undesirable side-effects that people don’t enjoy and that can mean that they don’t adhere to their treatment. That is a reasonable thing, i think – they shouldn’t be forced to take medication in my opinion (unless they pose significant danger to the public) – and when they are on and off medication, then their behaviour can be erratic as i’m sure you know. I think they are LESS than fully responsible when this situation is in play.

    It is true that the courts only really consider the psychotic conditions to be a suitable reason for pleas of ‘not guilty due to mental impairment’ however other mental health issues are often taken into consideration as a mitigating circumstance when it comes to sentencing. Mental health issues can lead to lesser sentences because it is recognised that the person with a mental health problem is less culpable / responsible than if they didn’t have the mental health problem. So I like to afford them the same understanding.

    However, I didn’t mean to imply that you are not empathic towards people with mental health issues! Sorry if it came across like that. And I agree with you that the media coverage on Mathew Newtons messy and aggressive behaviour is another setback for promoting a better understanding of mental health issues.

  • Anonymous
    1 May 2012 at 7:51 am

    Anyone with half a brain can see it,s a behavioral problem Mathew has,and thats whats effecting his social life and reality, him, and his habits,behaviors, hes not a bad man, hes a man who has made mistakes and is unfortunately still making them, call it immaturity, call it mental illness if “you like”, but it doesn’t change the fact that hes a troubled boy. Just goes to show how inept and socially insensitive psychiatrists can be suggesting he go a million miles away from his family and friends.let alone tagging him with a mental illness that he obviously doesnt have, maybe their that caught up in the dollars, and their “der” lets try this approach, look at me, look at me, mentality, that they’ve forgotten about how important family is, and simple behavioral advice, rules if you like.

    But I can tell you Its the meds, and the no hope, your pathetic, your mentally deranged,you cant cope, here take these drugs,(our drugs) that have caused him to continue to fret and be in trouble, all “that” permanent tagging type of negativity, not , not taking a poison , anyone with any awareness knows going on and coming off psychotropics send you mad, being on them for more, than less, people alienates and depresses. When all he needed to do was stop drinking alcohol, and stay away from poisoners and poison, and see some real humanistic cognitive teachers, behavioral therapists, not drug dealing, poison pushers. Alcohol, the number one mind destabalising substance, outside of mind bending languid causing psychotropics, on the planet, and with a mental health(unhealth) tag and anchor on his back, not only by psychiatry but by the populace as well, just going on these posts, the poor blokes trying to drown it all, so what, hes made some serious mistakes,that doesn’t mean everyone has to beat him up for what hes insecurity habits, and mental health (psychiatry)combined, have caused him,alcohol was and is mats problem, psychiatry has made it another problem on top of his problem, if you want to blame anyone or thing , don’t just blame mat, blame alcohol , mat for drinking it, and psychiatry for tagging him mad when hes not, call someone something long enough and you start to turn them into it.

  • Clarissa
    4 May 2012 at 12:17 am

    I am also sick of hearing about Newton. Yes, one time i can understand, but then surely you take steps to start dealing with your illness…