Why We Need To Talk About Kanye West

Peter Hutchins

We need to talk about Yeezy, now more than ever.

Late last year, Kanye’s hospitalization and subsequent placement on a psychiatric hold saturated our media. The officials labelled the episode a “psychiatric emergency.” Information varied, but reports of dehydration, memory loss and sleep deprivation frequented our news feeds.

As all things Kanye prompt, there was a polarizing response from the public. For many, the news was met with humour. “Haha! The idiot cannot control itself so it needs to go to hospital. At what point can we disregard this no-talent moron?” commented one person. “Waterboard him for a week- it might do him some good,” said another.

In the past, he’s been no stranger to discussions surrounding mental health. In Pablo’s ‘FML’, for example, he states that “you ain’t never seen nothing crazier than this n—- when he off his Lexapro,” referring to his withdrawal symptoms from the common anti-depressant.

Now, there are obviously certain connotations that come to mind when regarding Kanye’s publicised character. There’s that time he infamously gate crashed Taylor’s acceptance speech at the ’09 VMA’s. “I am Picasso. I am Michelangelo. I am Basquiat. I am Walt Disney. I am Steve Jobs,” he proclaimed in an on-stage rant a few years back. His viral tirades and notorious Twitter rants also remain constant pop culture fodder.

These instances, some may argue, have constructed the foundation of his public persona. These outlandish moments, other may say, are premeditated. After all, shock value is a prime marketing tool in today’s day-and-age, where an online character and virality are easy pathways to increase one’s fame and profile. The media, as well, can obviously skew the facts, especially in terms of his recent hospitalisation.

Regardless of whether the reports are true or skewed, though, I still found the discussion surrounding Kanye’s health deeply concerning. The humorous responses sent out an alarming message to the online public sphere: that one’s “craziness” is worthy of ridicule and rightfully undeserving of support.

This is an issue that transcends any one person, including Kanye. Alas, there is a worrying relationship that exists between mental health and society’s trivial responses, and, whether it be Kanye or not, society’s responses are unfortunately all too predictable. With this in mind, I now offer a fictional scenario –

The articles relating to Kanye’s psychiatric care were headlined “Kanye hospitalised for psychiatric evaluation”, and the public response was too-often met with humour and remarks relating to his supposed-craziness. However, if the titles were headlined “Kanye kills himself” instead, the public’s response would be drastically different. A barrage of regretful comments would knowingly accompany the articles. The belief that one ‘should have done more’ would be a common sentiment. Love and adoration for Kanye would saturate our news feeds. In other words, Kanye would literally have to kill himself in order to receive adequate concern from the public.

Albeit a rather drastic scenario, this example inherently relates to our culture’s continuous tendency to only mention the concern of mental health until it is too late.

When I, myself, made the decision to begin taking anti-depressants around a year ago, I struggled to find adequate resources and information. It was one of the hardest decisions I’ve made in my life. When it came to discussions with family and friends, as well as representation in the media, I realised that it was a topic that most found uncomfortable to talk about. I began to feel ashamed of my reliance on medication.

Along the way, though, I met so many inspiring humans who also take medication, as well as friends who have been in psychiatric care. I learnt the stories of people who came to realise that they ultimately deserved happiness, before subsequently taking matters into their own hands to seek help. Soon, I was encouraged to do the same, and it was one of the most empowering feelings. I found that there was such strength in vulnerability and such bravery in honesty. I also came to find solace in an open and comfortable dialogue, created between my family and friends.

Despite this, though, medication and psychiatric illness remains an issue that’s rarely talked about, unless it’s to degrade Kanye, it seems.

Although it’s a highly publicised case and example, the discussion surrounding Kanye’s wellbeing can only have detrimental effects in terms of mental health patients having to validate their own experiences. It’s allowing for a space in which the public is able to scrutinize each patient’s experiences; in other words, the worth of each patient’s story is placed in the hands of the public, instead of the patients determining this for themselves.

We need to stop waiting until it is too late. It’s no secret that mental health remains embedded within America’s societal framework. In fact, according to Mental Health America, around one in five American adults currently have a mental health condition, with rates of youth depression increasing. Suicide also remains a leading cause of death throughout the country.

No matter how high profile or heavily-scrutinised the patient is, mental health concerns should never be trivialised or humoured. No matter the specific situation that surrounds one’s psychiatric illness, or whether Kanye’s reports are true or not, mental health should never be spoken about in any other way but with respect and compassion.

If we talk about the importance of therapy, instead, and the bravery involved with coming to terms with one’s sadness, we create a safe space that invites those who need help.

It’s not up to the public to deem a certain case significant or not. One’s wellbeing should not a topic that is up for debate, period.

It’s time to view taboo beyond the artistic lens. TC mark

If this article has touched on issues for you, please don’t hesitate to contact the National Youth Crisis Hotline on 800-448-4663 or Your Life Your Voice on 1-800-448-3000.

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