OPINION: The mockery of Kanye West shows mental health stigma at its worst

Do we really care about men’s mental health? Not when you look at the reaction to Kanye West's recent hospitalisation

OPINION: The mockery of Kanye West shows mental health stigma at its worst

Zacharie Scheurer / AP

We all care about your mental health. We all want you to be unafraid to speak out and tell us when something isn’t right. We all want to be there to remind you that your problems will be met with compassion and care. We all want that for you. Unless you’re Kanye West.

It’s not at all surprising that the tone of the reaction to the rapper’s hospitalisation for a ‘psychiatric emergency’ has been unfortunate at best and downright sickening at worst.

 Article that appeared in The Sun on November 22nd 

Words like ‘bizarre’, ‘rant’, ‘unhinged’ have been blurted repeatedly over the past two days and there’s no sign of that stopping soon.

This is not OK.

Do we only care about mental health if it’s someone we haven’t already universally united to write-off as an ‘asshole’?It’s all very fashionable to say we’re aware of the issues surrounding anxiety, depression and suicide awareness and share Bressie or Blindboy Boat Club clips on our social media feeds but, when push comes to shove, and we’re confronted with what may well be a very visible moment of crisis, we resort to lashing out memes for cheap laughs and a few retweets.

This is not OK.  

For all of our talk about addressing mental health, we cannot possibly claim to be serious if we pick and choose when we’re compassionate. Do we realise that we are deepening that very stigma we all seem to be aware of, but not all of us seem to really care about addressing?

I’ve lost count of the amount of times I’ve seen Kanye West called ‘crazy’ since the news of his gig cancellation and hospitalisation. Think about that word for a second: ‘crazy’. It’s perhaps the most damaging thing you could possibly say to anyone, never mind someone going through darkness.

You can say someone is incompetent or a ‘prick’ but ‘crazy’? You’re saying they’re fundamentally broken as a person. It’s harmful. It hurts and it’s wrong. Why would anyone consider coming out to speak about their feelings if that’s what awaits them?

This is not OK.


I’ll make a personal admission here that will probably skewer your perceptions of this column: I’m avid fan of Kanye West’s music. Throughout his career, he’s been bombastic, he’s been outrageous, he’s said some awful things but his music has been a constant source of joy and confidence for me and millions of others in moments of extreme doubt.

Kanye albums tend to be released at moments of consequential change or strife in my life.

Maybe I’m part of the problem in talking about mental health because I’ve been one of those people who’s never really talked about my own experiences and maybe I will at some point.

What I will say is that when I was gripped with angst in early college years, I turned to 808s and Graduation. When I hit what I felt was absolute rock bottom, a moment of real loss, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy was there and reflected both the chaos of the situation and the uplift needed to pull through. The same goes for The Life Of Pablo, which dug me out of brief waves of turmoil, earlier this year.

I fully understand people 'hating' Kanye West. If I wasn’t a fan, maybe I wouldn’t be as quick to appeal for a bit of self-reflection on how we speak about his troubles.

It's pretty ironic that Kanye himself very visibly embraced Kid Cudi on stage just days before this incident. Cudi, West’s former protege, recently left rehab for depression, and had lashed out at Kanye in the middle of his turmoil. After initially firing back at Cudi, West wished his old friend the best and weeks later, welcomed him back on stage in a moment charged with emotion.

 

So, who’s the real prick here? Are we going to collectively examine how we treat mental health issues as a whole or are we going to continue to use words like ‘crazy’, which belong in the dustbin of history alongside ‘lunatic’ and ‘looney-bin’?

Are we going to use these moments to remind young men and women across Ireland and the world that mental health issues take many forms and we shouldn’t be ashamed to address them as they arise or are we going to keep picking and choosing who we offer that support to?

Do we really care about men’s mental health? It doesn’t look like it to me and this, my friends, is not OK.