How The Reaction To The Media’s Kanye Coverage Is Stigmatising Mental Health

By Liam Menzies (@blinkclyro)

It’s not uncommon for creatives to suffer from mental health issues. A well dissected effected named after famous poet and novelist Sylvia Plath is one such documented phenomenon that suggests that poets are more susceptible to mental illness than other writers with some,  including Plath herself, going as far as to end their own lives. The same kind of link can be seen in musicians with Brian Wilson, founder of American Rock band The Beach Boys, being very public about his battle with schizophrenia, specifically pointing out the effect this had on his writing music ability, saying:

I haven’t been able to write anything for three years. I think I need the demons in order to write, but the demons have gone.

So when rapper and music icon Kanye West was seen ranting on stage, which is not uncommon for the Yeezus star, about his support for Trump, naturally outlets and members of the public jumped at the chance to criticise the star. It seemed like West was maybe heeding his own words when he decided to spout out such quotes, as he best put it on I Am A God: “As soon as they like you, make them unlike you”. The word crazy was thrown around relentlessly, something that made an appearance repeatedly back in 2008 when West infamously appeared on stage to take Taylor Swift’s VMA award and declared that Beyonce’s video for Single Ladies was the “greatest of all time”. To this day the moment is brought up at every opportunity despite Swift and West making up afterwards though this was short lived before West’s Famous line (“I feel like me and Taylor might still have sex/ I made that bitch famous”) ruined any potential chance of a friendship occurring though Swift was quickly called our for her snakish ways.

With news coming out today about West being moved into a psychiatric ward, further outrage was sent towards the musician. Despite the star previously talking about his battle with depression following the passing of his mother as well as recently being given the news last month that his wife Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint in Paris, people were quick to criticise West for being a brat and saying he should man up with many comparing him to other musicians who have triumphed over physical difficulties to perform such as Dave Grohl. What most people neglect to mention is that this recent induction into a psychiatric ward as well as his outbursts occurring on the anniversary of his mother’s death seems to be more than just coincidental. I’m not one to sympathise with someone who said that people of colour should just deal with the fact that they live in a racist country.However, with his aforementioned mental health problems, reportedly suffering from sleep deprivation as well as West repeatedly speaking out against racial issues as recently as this year on his LP The Life of Pablo, it would not surprise me at all if what we’re witnessing is a relapse of sorts.

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Theorising besides, what has enraged me the most isn’t fuelled by the media’s reporting of the news, neither is it some blind fanboyism. Scroll through any of the comment sections of a publication who reported on West today and you’ll witness a flash flood of pure toxicity. NME, who since their move to being a free magazine have become what can only be described as the click bait of music journalism, seem to be the worst culprit of it with their readers showing such a backwards way of thinking in regards to mental health that you’d think that you had hopped into a DeLorean and ended up in the 20th century. Calls for West to stay locked up and to die were just the tip of the iceberg, highlighting the already massive stigma that is attached to mental health. The same people contributing to this are no doubt the same ones who ask what drug an artist was on when they see slightly abstract art. While they may say that West wouldn’t care as he’s a superstar and would hardly mind someone calling him crazy, the fact of the matter is this attitude reinforces the mindset that those who do not act “normal” or control whatever their mental health issues may be, whether it’s BPD or depression, are not worthy of fair treatment or even worse: not worthy of life.

While the title of this article says that the public reaction further stigmatises mental health,the group I’d like to focus on particularly are black men as it seems that, in the perspective of some anyway, they’re incapable of suffering from such a thing. For instance, black men in Britain are 17 times more likely than white counterparts to be diagnosed with a psychotic illness which, when tied into the fact that the biggest killer amongst men under the age of 50 is suicide, is very worrying. The discussion of such a thing in the hip-hop genre has been alive and well recently, what with Kid Cudi being very open about his struggles as well Kendrick Lamar touching upon it on his 2015 record To Pimp A Butterfly as well as interviews. However, with the stereotype of all black men being strong and fearless on top of the already hot topic of toxic masculinity, assuming that West’s recent actions are anything but the result of the shattered psyche of a man who has had a stressful time is foolish.

What’s important to realise about West’s struggle is that this is a perfect example of separating the art from the artist, something that came to mind when I pointed out that NME readers constantly refer to John Lennon, a repeated abuser, as a legend but state that Kanye, a guy who acts a bit arrogant, the devil in disguise. Whether you think that Kanye is the greatest thing to happen to music this century or you think that his work is ego fueled rubbish, one thing that I think everyone can agree on is that not only should no one have to suffer such mental torture alongside a public onslaught but that no one, regardless of fame or fortune, should be scared to speak out about how they feel.

~

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