On Thursday, Billy McFarland, who organized the festival, was sentenced to six years in prison for defrauding investors and ticket holders by promising a high-end music festival that instead descended into chaos.
Before the sentencing, McFarland's lawyer had argued for leniency for his client, claiming that McFarland had undiagnosed mental illnesses. According to BuzzFeed, the attorney cited two psychiatrists' reports that McFarland had a mood disorder, "bipolar related disorder," ADHD, and alcohol abuse, which affected his behavior and resulted in "delusional beliefs of having special and unique talents that will lead to fame and fortune."
While we can't know what McFarland is going through mental health-wise, Debra Kissen, PhD, a member of the Anxiety and Depression Association of America, says it's certainly plausible that mental health issues could affect someone's behavior.
"If someone is in a manic episode where they think they’re invincible and brilliant and all these things are going to work, they certainly can believe their delusions of grandeur," she says.
Still, Dr. Kissen says, we have to be careful not to paint all people with mental health disorders with the same brush.
"Would every person experiencing ADHD and bipolar commit mass fraud? Absolutely not," she says. "A lot of other factors have to come into play as well. [Mental health isn't] indicative of someone who’s going to commit mass fraud. I’d imagine a history of previous crime would be a factor you look for as opposed to ADHD or bipolar."
If you are struggling with bipolar disorder and are in need of information and support, please call theNational Alliance on Mental Illnessat 1-800-950-6264. For a 24-hour crisis line, text “NAMI” to 741741.
If you are struggling with substance abuse, please call the SAMHSA National Helpline at 1-800-662-4357 for free and confidential information.
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