NEW YORK – A fashion model who strutted naked on a Times Square ledge before leaping off says he wants people to respond to mental illness with more compassion.
In a first-person account that appeared Sunday in the New York Post, Krit McClean shared the details of his manic episode on a sunny morning in late June.
The 21-year-old Columbia University student said he had stepped off the subway near Times Square with blisters on his feet from walking barefoot "and was overwhelmed with fear. ... I was in the throes of paranoia. I thought evil people were out to get me."
Heading toward his apartment on Manhattan's West Side, he noticed a Times Square billboard for Express jeans that urged people to "Express Yourself."
"I obeyed. I immediately took off my clothes," he said. "Being naked, I thought, was the most truthful way of expressing myself."
Then he climbed the red stairs behind the TKTS booth that sells discounted Broadway tickets. "I started collecting old gum, cigarette butts and coins — and ate it all. It was my way of disposing of the garbage."
He sang and danced atop the booth before jumping 18 feet to the ground onto an airbag police set up to break his fall.
McClean's public display drew the wrath of authorities, college officials and employers in the fashion industry. He lost his modeling deal, faces a Columbia University disciplinary hearing and is charged criminally after the June 30 episode, he said.
At Bellevue Hospital, where he was admitted to the psychiatric ward, his feet were shackled and one wrist was handcuffed to the bed. The other arm was in a cast, with 13 stitches on the elbow where broken bone had cut through the skin.
He told the newspaper he's going public with his ordeal so people will show empathy and sensitivity to others suffering from mental illness.
He said he takes medication and goes to therapy to help his genetic predisposition. Prosecutors are set to drop charges if he continues treatment and avoids trouble for six months.
McClean said he went public "to help others with mental illness who battle constant judgments and stigmas."