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I Know Black Men Like Kanye West — and We Need to Do Better By Them

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Kanye West has been the talk of the media in recent weeks. His Twitter posts and bizarre comments during his campaign event had some people wondering, “What is really going on with Kanye?” Many were shocked and angry at the inaccurate statements he made about Harriet Tubman. Kanye eventually broke down in front of everyone at the event after stating he wanted his wife, Kim Kardashian West, to get an abortion when she was pregnant with North West. (He’s since apologized for this statement.) The whole ordeal was really emotional, and many could tell something wasn’t right.

Mania in people who experience bipolar disorder is something that’s still very misunderstood. People do have a right to be angry about some of the things Kanye has been saying lately, because mental health doesn’t necessarily mean you get to excuse someone’s behavior if they’re being harmful. But I personally feel an even bigger issue is that it seems like Kanye is still refusing to get any kind of treatment or support. Because of this and his fame, the world can witnesses any serious change in his mental health and well-being during one of the most collectively traumatic years we’ve ever seen.

After his campaign rally, Kanye started tweeting out that his wife, Kim, was trying to have him committed into a facility. (These tweets have since been deleted.) Kim Kardashian West eventually released a statement about Kanye’s bipolar disorder, the misconceptions people have of it and how it also impacts her and the kids.

While I’m not the biggest fan of Kim Kardashian West, I believe her response was spot on, and that she had every right to make it. Many have gone as far as fully trying to blame Kim for Kanye’s bipolar disorder. To me this isn’t necessarily fair, especially since Kanye West has been dealing with bipolar disorder before they even got together. Kim cannot make Kanye do anything he doesn’t want to do. Nobody can, he has to want the help.

I’ve been dealing with depression and anxiety for most of my life, and it has impacted me in many ways, both health-wise and in my personal life, but it wasn’t until I believed that my mental health was really declining that I needed to do a better job of taking care of it. Nobody could make me see that — I had to see it on my own.

You cannot make a loved one receive mental health treatment if they don’t even feel it’s needed. We also have to remember that Kanye is Black, and from my experience, mental health treatment has always been looked down upon in the Black community. Strength and prayer have always been the go-to’s instead of mental health services, and you can see this is even evident in Kanye’s life in recent years.

While it seems Kanye is reluctant to engage in any mental health treatment, he’s been talking more and more about Jesus, prayer, etc. I’m not saying anything is necessarily wrong with that, but while he’s been praying, making these church appearances and recording “Jesus Is King,” his mental health seems to have been declining through it all. Prayer and Christianity do not cure mental illness.

I’ve been there, I use to think that prayer, church and reading the Bible would be enough to get through major depressive disorder, anxiety and suicidal thoughts, but it wasn’t. I needed help from a professional. I still have to receive forms of treatment for my mental health till this very day. However, realizing that treatment is important was not an easy process, especially when you’re always expected to be strong in the Black community.

The fact that Kanye is a Black man, he’s likely been conditioned from a young age to believe that Black men have to be strong and aren’t allowed to express their emotions. I believe this stigma in the Black community is a huge reason why Kanye believes he doesn’t even need the treatment and that he just needs Jesus.

I created The Safe Place app, a free mental health app for the Black community, for reasons such as this. Kanye is not the only Black man or woman who is going through a serious mental health disorder, but feels nothing is wrong and that they don’t need any treatment.

Black families for generation after generation have said “therapy is just for white people,” so even with all the wealth Kanye has, he grew up in a society where many Black people think mental health issues don’t even exist among us or can simply be prayed away over time. Kanye’s money cannot fix the decades of stigma that we’ve been taught in the Black community. However, more education on mental health issues can.

I’m hoping that Kanye wishes to receive the help someday, for two very important reasons. The first being that he might benefit from it, and it’s nothing to be embarrassed about. The second being that it could show others in the Black community that getting mental health treatment can be beneficial for those who are struggling. 

Do I agree with the things Kanye West has been doing lately? No, but I can also recognize that I’ve seen people like him in my community since I was a child, needing the help, but thinking they don’t need it because they have Jesus, strength and prayer. The only real difference between them and Kanye is that Kanye is rich and famous. We need to do better by them.

Getty image via master1305

Originally published: July 27, 2020
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