Saturday, September 26, 2015

Jeffrey Lee Puckett on mental health and Will Russell.

I've never met Will Russell, although we have mutual acquaintances who freely testify to his talent and charisma.

These past few months have not been kind to Russell, and it has been sad and surreal these past few months to observe a figurative car crash play out in real time on social media, all the while reading as Russell's friends continue to ask, "Can't something be done?"

As the status update often affirms, it's complicated.

Jeffrey Lee Puckett explains why. We may know Puckett as the C-J's music reporter, a seat he seems to have occupied since the Beatles played Shea Stadium, but in this piece, Puckett patiently and skillfully tells the story of Russell's mental health struggles. It is well written and highly recommended, whether you know Russell or not ... because you probably know someone who grapples with similar issues.

Mental illness at heart of Will Russell's struggle: Will Russell's story is one of longtime mental health issues and recent headlines tell only part of that story

Louisville entrepreneur Will Russell has been making news for nearly 14 years. Most of it has been good, and good for the city, but a recent spate of arrests and increasingly erratic behavior have put him in a dramatically different kind of spotlight.

Russell’s accomplishments are well-known. He co-founded Lebowski Fest, an annual event that has gone global with sister festivals in more than 30 cities. He opened WHY Louisville, a Kentucky-themed gift shop, at 1583 Bardstown Road, in 2005 and added a second location at 806 E. Market St. in 2013. And this year began with Russell deep into a project to open Funtown Mountain, a Cave City amusement park.

All of it has been threatened by a severe manic episode related to Russell’s bipolar disorder, a condition with which he has struggled since his teens, according to his father, Bill Russell. The manic episode began last year following a deep depression, and the 39-year-old's return to substance abuse after nearly 20 years of sobriety became apparent in July when he was first arrested on drug charges ...

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