If you looked away from the unsettling political news that was unfolding on your Facebook feed Friday, you may have noticed another trending TV star: Mischa Barton. Known for her portrayal as the troubled teen Marissa Cooper, Barton, the now 31-year-old actress, was reported to be having a mental breakdown in her back yard.

When I saw the news, I initially wanted to write about her history of mental health, both fictional in the show and the realities of alcohol and depression she has encountered in real life, and how other young people can be more aware of their own mental health. But something stopped me. I felt embarrassed for using her breakdown as an example to others.

As someone who has witnessed family members battle mental health and is well aware of the statistic that the first signs of mental disorders usually emerge in your early twenties, I didn't want to toe the line between education and exploitation on her behalf. 

The media and victim blaming

However, Mischa came back into the headlines a day later that resulted in a reaction I would not be able to ignore. According to the Huffington Post, Mischa stated, "On the evening of the 25th, I went out with a group of friends to celebrate my birthday. While having drinks, I realized that something was not right as my behavior was becoming erratic and continued to intensify over the next several hours.” When my co-workers relayed this information to me that she had actually been drugged and I should write my article instead about how this is a warning for all college women partying, I almost immediately responded, "I doubt that it's true."

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Photo courtesy of @danielle_scott on flickr.com

How f*cked up is that? I'm honestly ashamed of myself, but I admit it, my gut reaction was exactly what empowers victim blaming and the stigma surrounding statements from victims. Is there any public evidence other than her word? No. Does Mischa have a record of breakdowns and substance abuse? Yes. Do either of those things matter? Absolutely not. If I don't believe her word, then it's another stone thrown at women, and all victims, who have spoken out about things that have been out of their control. If we don't support each other, then who will?

It's more than a lesson about party safety

Mischa warns in her interview with the Huffington Post that, "This is a lesson to all young women out there, be aware of your surroundings.” This is true. All it can take is looking away for a second, but I think another lesson to take away is to not have fear and to seek help, speak up about what you're experiencing. Whether you go through something similar in the future or feel completely out of control, don't be afraid to get help. Mischa may not have a perfect track record, but she's speaking up and using herself as an example. And that is something I will always look up to.