This week on Oprah’s Next Chapter, Oprah visits Jason Russell and talks about his smart hip documentary short on Joseph Kony, a Uganda warlord, and his mental breakdown. Joseph Kony has been accused of leading the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). He has kidnapped children for his military regime and turned some of them into sex slaves just to further his agenda.
The Kony 2012 YouTube video went viral as soon as it was posted. It reached over 100 million views in just 24 hours.
Jason Russell hoped it would bring attention to the issues in Africa and help with funding for Invisible Children, a nonprofit, to assist the atrocity.
Of course, with any successful good deed there are going to be those that attack the cause. Jason was hit with naysayers from all sides and as a result suffered a mental breakdown.
Jason was videoed running around naked in San Diego screaming at cars just one week after the viral launch of Kony 2012. He had totally lost it and doesn’t really remember much of what happened. After his breakdown, he vanished for several months.
Oprah visited Jason in his new home, north of San Diego, to interview him. He began to tell the story of how Invisible Children began. He said that he and two friends traveled to Uganda on a college break from USC to find out what was going on in Africa. They had heard about the issues with children and wanted to document it. He met Jacob, a 12-year-old boy, in Uganda who was running for his life. His brother had been captured by the LRA for the forced military, and they were after Jacob too. Jason told Jacob that he would help him and bring the issue into the public eye.
Over the next several years, Jason created ten movies and completed thousands of screenings on the horrors of Uganda and the slave labor. As he spoke, he showed a tremendous amount of emotional charge as he told the story about the children in Africa.
On March 15, 2012, Jason had his breakdown. It was just 10 days after the release of the YouTube Kony 2012 film. He had completed 17 interviews in 48 hours from the east coast to west coast. He was tired.
As a result of the publicity from the film, the UN and President Obama were making statements about Kony, and Jason felt directly responsible for the outcome of the issue. He felt that he needed to have answers to the issues, and he couldn’t sleep.
Oprah asked Jason, “What is the anatomy of a breakdown?” Jason said he felt like he was on a special mission. He added that his mind was speeding. He couldn’t sleep. And then, his breakdown was caught on video, and it also went viral.
Jason recounts his breakdown and says he remembers a friend coming to his house and he was wearing underwear and a bathrobe. He went on to explain that he became irritated, and he remembers his wife and kids leaving and then his friend leaving. He says he felt like he was watching a movie and it would speed up and then slow down. He says he remembers segments like flipping off cars and running around a lemon tree. He says he takes full responsibility for his actions but he just doesn’t remember all of his actions.
His take away is that he should have slowed down with the business and let others help him more. It took him two weeks to come back into his head while he was in the medical facility. He said he thought people were trying to kill him, even his wife. Oprah asked him if he was on drugs, and he responded that he was not on drugs during his breakdown or any other time.
Oprah, trying to decipher what went wrong, asks Jason what the bigger picture is… Jason said it was about his ego. The ego split away from his body and took over. Then, when things didn’t go according to plan, the ego came crashing down. He spent a whole month in the hospital recovering.
He met his wife, Danica Jones, while they were both children. So they are not only husband and wife, but they are long-time friends. She was worried about Jason when he went through his breakdown. But her first concern was taking care of their two small children. She didn’t want them exposed to the irrational behavior of their father.
Today, Jacob is studying to be an attorney. He is involved in Invisible Children and comes to the States to help promote Jason’s new movie called MOVE.
As of today, Kony is still at large and believed to be in Sudan. It’s estimated that 30,000 children have been kidnapped. However, some say that number is closer to 100,000. Where will it all end? Will Kony be convicted, or will he escape?
Oprah’s Next Chapter airs on OWN Sunday’s at 9/8c.