model who danced naked in times square pens powerful essay on bipolar disorder
'Most reactions have been punitive and don't come from a place of understanding of mental illness.'
Earlier this summer, 21-year-old model Krit McClean stripped naked in Times Square, climbed the iconic TKTS staircase, screamed about Donald Trump, and recited lyrics from Kanye West's Nike-inspired diss track "FACTS." After taunting police for 90 minutes and jumping three stories from the staircase, McClean was arrested and admitted to Bellevue hospital for three weeks — a period during which he has retained an impressive sense of humor about the whole ordeal, frequently posting to Instagram with hashtags such as #theprisonerofbellevueistrynaplaysomequidditch.
Since his release, McClean has become an important advocate for mental health awareness — penning a harrowing, honest essay for the New York Post about his struggle with bipolar disorder. "It wasn't until I got out of Bellevue three weeks later that I saw the front page of The Post with the headline 'Ball Drop in Times Square,'' he writes. "I laughed. That is not to say mental illness is a joke. I am now on medication and go to therapy sessions weekly."
McClean recounts the morning of June 30 when he stepped off the F train near Times Square "in the throes of paranoia." He became convinced that people were after him and started receiving subliminal messages from towering billboards, including one from Express Jeans. "I immediately took off my clothes," McClean remembers. "Being naked, I thought, was the most truthful way of expressing myself. It made me feel safe." He remembers climbing the TKTS stairs, becoming transfixed with dichotomies like Democrats vs. Republicans, and eventually leaping to the concrete.
The Columbia student's manic episode was the climax of several days of distorted reality. He had lately become obsessed with the color yellow, started associating certain things with positivity and negativity, stopped seeing friends, and stopped smoking weed. The night before the Times Square episode, underslept and intensely delusional, he thought he was James Bond and climbed out to nap on the rocks at the southern tip of Roosevelt Island.
Sadly, McClean has now been dropped by Ford models and faces a disciplinary hearing at Columbia.
"Most reactions have been punitive and don't come from a place of understanding of mental illness," he writes. "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."
Text Hannah Ongley
Image via Instagram