Amanda Bynes Breakdown? Why is the Former Child Star on Psych Hold?


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Amanda Bynes is on a 72 hour mental lockdown. Photo by The Heart Truth.

Amanda Bynes is on a 72 hour mental health lockdown. Photo by The Heart Truth.

Actress Amanda Bynes is on mental lock down after starting a fire in a driveway on July 22, 2013.

The Ventura County Sheriff’s Office was called to the scene and decided that she met the criteria of 5150 W&I, which is the California Welfare and Institution Code. Bynes was then taken in for a mental evaluation.

Earlier this spring, the former child star was charged with reckless endangerment and tampering with evidence after throwing a bong out of her apartment window, according to USA Today.

What is a 5150 W&I?

The California Welfare and Institution Code 5150 states that,

“When any person, as a result of mental disorder, is a danger to others, or to himself or herself, or gravely disabled, a peace officer, member of the attending staff, as defined by regulation, of an evaluation facility designated by the county, or other professional person designated by the county may, upon probable cause, take, or cause to be taken, the person into custody and place him or her in a facility designated by the county and approved by the State Department of Health Care Services as a facility for 72-hour treatment and evaluation.”

This means that a qualified officer or clinician can confine a person if there is reason to suspect that the person has a mental disorder and is a danger to themselves or others.

This confinement is for 72 hours at a designated inpatient psychiatric facility so that doctors can evaluate the patient for a mental disorder. This 72 hour hold can be accomplished against the patient’s will, and the person does not have to be transported by police. Once the 72 hours is up, the psychiatrist must assess the person to determine whether he or she meets the requirements to be hospitalized for a longer term.

EMTs and Paramedics can transfer patients, but cannot diagnose. Photo by Mister Falcon.

EMTs and Paramedics can transfer patients, but cannot diagnose mental illness. Photo by Mister Falcon.

5150: What Happens On the Scene?

The emergency responders present depend on the individual scenario. If the scenario involved the need for medical treatment, for example, then the fire department, who have EMT and paramedics on staff, would respond and/or an ambulance would respond.

Alan, an EMT and firefighter in Louisville, KY tells Decoded Science what would happen in that case;

All an EMT or paramedic can do is a transfer of care, like they do with all patients. We can provide medical treatment at the scene and on the way to the hospital, but we cannot diagnose a patient. The diagnosis is up to the ER doctor; however, on the way to the hospital we talk to the personnel and give a description of what happened. And in some cases, where a person is clearly mentally disabled or has committed a crime, the police will also escort the patient to the hospital along with the EMTs and Paramedics.”

How the scenario is handled may also depend on state laws. What one state does, may be different than other states; however, the diagnosis of a person is typically up to a doctor.

Mental Disorders in the United States

We don’t know if doctors will diagnose Amanda Bynes with a mental disorder, a drug problem, or some other issue. According to the National Institute of Mental Health (NIMH), about 26.2 percent of Americans over the age of 18 have received a diagnosis of a mental disorder – that’s about one in four adults. This can range from diagnosis such as mood disorders, such as depression, to personality disorders. Serious mental disorders occur in about six percent of the population – about one in 17 people.

Amanda Bynes, Child Actresses, and 5150 Holds

Unfortunately, this isn’t the first time an actor or actress has had to be on mental lockdown; Brittany Spears, another former child star, was also placed on mental lockdown back in January 2008. Amanda Bynes will be held for 72 hours and then will either be released or admitted to a hospital to get the care she needs.


California Codes. Welfare and Institution Code Section 5150-5157. Accessed July 24, 2013.

National Institute of Mental Health. The Numbers Count: Mental Disorders in America. Accessed July 24, 2013.

San Francisco Department of Public Health. Involuntary Detention Manual. April 2010. Accessed July 24, 2013.

USA Today. Amanda Bynes is on mental lockdown. July 23, 2013. Accessed July 24, 2013.

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