Please Don't Treat Kanye West's Mental Health Like Celebrity Gossip
As I’m sure many of you have seen, Kanye West has been in the news for the past few days/weeks for his erratic behavior and posts on social media. Kanye is diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and many are speculating that he is in the midst of a manic episode. I’ve seen a lot of unnecessary and unhelpful comments regarding what his family “should” be doing to help him, as well as comments judging him for what he is saying and doing during this manic episode. None of this is OK; it perpetuates the stigma and negativity around mental illness.
Here are a few ways to productively contribute to the conversation:
1. Educate yourself.
Do the appropriate research on the particular mental health condition a person is experiencing. Don’t assume you know everything about a disorder from the media or hearsay.
For example: Kanye West has bipolar disorder. Bipolar disorder is not just “being moody.” It is a cycle of sometimes devastating highs and lows, with each phase of the cycle lasting days or even weeks (and, in some cases, people with bipolar disorder may not even have a major depressive episode at all).
“Manic” episodes can cause people to say and do things they would never do if they were not in a manic state. That doesn’t mean they shouldn’t be held accountable for what they say or do, but it is important context to consider.
2. Refrain from judgment.
Do not judge how the friends or family of the person experiencing a mental health crisis are responding. Especially if you don’t know the person personally and haven’t been in a similar situation yourself, do not interject your own opinion of what they “should” be doing.
Do not make unhelpful comments or posts on social media. These comments are not a productive use of your energy and can possibly further contribute to mental health stigma/misinformation.
3. Practice empathy and compassion.
We never truly know what another person is feeling or going through. These situations are an opportunity to show empathy and compassion for others, even if we cannot fully understand what they are experiencing. Be kind.
Understand that two people with the same mental health diagnosis can experience the disorder very differently. There is no one-size-fits-all when it comes to mental health. Everyone’s experience is valid.
Refrain from sharing/making memes, jokes, or otherwise insensitive material about the person/their crisis. It is not a joking matter.
4. Use this as an opportunity to check on the people in your own life.
It’s human nature to be interested in the lives of famous people, especially when there is something noteworthy going on.
However, we can often neglect to check in with the people in our own lives who may be struggling. Ask them. Listen to their response.
Talk about mental health more in your everyday life. Share information, show support and actively work to end the stigma. Do this even when a celebrity is not in the spotlight for their mental health.
Take care of yourself. Ask for help if you need it.
This is by no means an exhaustive list of ways to contribute to the conversation, but it’s a start. Together, we can positively change the dialogue around mental health.