It’s not abnormal for Kanye West to make headlines. Whether it’s about a new album or something that happened at an award show he is bound to be talked about. After his announcement that he is running in the 2020 election, he has been picked apart online and offline and mostly scorned or laughed at. After his rally in South Carolina people took a pause. What seemed to be a joke or something that stroked his ego turned into a discussion about mental health. Although some people are still mocking him, there has been an outcry of support for West and his family these past few days, as the effects of his bipolar disorder are seen publicly.
West held a rally in South Carolina and instead of it being a time where he discussed policy, the rally turned sideways after controversial comments. He discussed Harriet Tubman, mixed messages on abortion, and his thoughts on marijuana. A lot of his comments angered the public, but in the end, this turned out to be a public struggle with bipolar disorder.
In a public statement after the rally, his wife, Kim Kardashian West, said: “I understand Kanye is subject to criticism because he is a public figure, and his actions at times can cause strong opinions and emotions. He is a brilliant but complicated person who on top of the pressures of being an artist and a Black man, who experienced the painful loss of his mother and has to deal with the pressure and isolation that is heightened by his bi-polar disorder.”
This part of the statement stuck out to me. The conversation around mental illness is becoming more normalized each day, yet, people roll their eyes when celebrities face these same struggles. Just because someone is in the public eye does not mean their struggles aren’t real.
Kim’s statement on Kanye: pic.twitter.com/yWuxSVcBgV
— Dave Quinn (@NineDaves) July 22, 2020
It is widely known that the reason many people don’t speak up about their mental health struggles is because of the stereotypes associated. Society as a whole deems people “unstable” or “crazy” when in reality someone struggling with a mental illness needs and deserves the same amount of help and treatment someone with a more visible illness would get. This is why it has been beneficial for public figures to share their own stories; it creates an opportunity for the conversation around mental illness to reach more people.
West first opened up about his bipolar disorder in 2018. He spoke about it on talk shows like Jimmy Kimmel and in articles with papers like The New York Times. He was not afraid to share this facet of his life which is incredibly important because of the way mental illness is treated in the Black community. Black men and women are often taught to be strong or to push through things but when it comes to mental illness struggles that mindset only makes it more difficult to talk to someone and find support.
As a public figure, West has been under enormous scrutiny for something he has no control over and that has probably been a strain on himself and his family. He did recently make a public apology to his wife for discussing their private matters in public and went to the hospital for treatment, which could be a signal that he’s getting the help he needs.
Demi Lovato is another celebrity that has been quite open about her experiences with addiction, bipolar disorder, and an eating disorder. She is a fierce advocate for those going through struggles with addiction or mental illness and often uses her platform to speak on those topics. Lovato has been honest about the fact that her struggles started at a young age and since then she has been on a long journey of recovery.
In recent years the media has tried to share the dark parts of her journey for reads and clicks, but for those going through the same struggles, her honesty has been refreshing. It has shone a light on the fact that money and fame don’t buy happiness, which is a common misconception.
Comedian, actor, and writer John Mulaney also has been open about his struggles with anxiety. Through his standup, he has touched on this subject briefly but in interviews, he goes more into detail. Mulaney was candid in an interview with Dan Harris where he discussed starting meditation during the recording of his show Mulaney and continuing it after the show got canceled.
In a more recent interview with Stephen Colbert, their conversation turned existential. They discussed insecurities and anxiety and the feeling of wanting everyone to like you. “If there’s a hell, I think it’s an encyclopedia and you can just look up what everyone in your life thought about you. And if there is a heaven, it’s a Wikipedia, and you can just change that,” said Mulaney. It was not only good television but it took away the veil of falsity that often covers talk show interviews and showed the importance of open conversation.
Any and all conversations about mental illness are important and necessary. As a society, we have to push past this idea that having a mental illness is something people should be ashamed of. We also need to get rid of the notion that people with money or fame cannot go through the same struggles, it’s insensitive and untrue.
As Kardashian-West said, “We as a society talk about giving grace to the issue of mental health as a whole, however, we should also give it to the individuals who are living with it in times when they need it most.”
If you or someone you know is struggling with bipolar disorder or depression you can go here for resources and support.