Fans and media alike are speculating about Kanye West’s well-being after his recent display of erratic behavior.
In a series of recent, since-deleted tweets, the singer hurled a litany of insults at his wife and in-laws, taunting mother-in-law Kris Jenner and alleging that the Kardashian family was trying to force him into psychiatric treatment.
West, who revealed in 2018 that he suffers from bipolar disorder, has since publicly apologized to wife Kim for “going public with something that was a private matter.”
But, of course, once word spreads on social media, privacy is a thing of the past. Websites speculated on “what’s going on with Kanye,” while Twitter users, at best, preached platitudes and, at worst, made memes.
In response to the onslaught, Kim Kardashian wrote an impassioned plea on Instagram, writing in part,
“We as a society talk about giving grace to the issue of mental health as a whole, however, we should also give it to the individuals who are living with it in times when they need it the most.”
And she’s absolutely right. As a culture, we’ve made so much progress when it comes to de-stigmatizing mental illness. Five or ten years ago, we might have gleefully checked Perez Hilton’s website for updates on the latest celebrity meltdown saga, scrolling through the paparazzi photos capturing every detail without the slightest bit of guilt. Even a year or two ago, we might have shrugged off the unsettling undercurrent of Kanye West’s tweets and instead just jokingly quoted them back and forth to one another, using them for our own Facebook caption fodder like we did with Amanda Bynes circa 2013.
Now, our collective response is more one of curiosity couched in concern.
Sure, there are still insensitive, even outright cruel, tweets that minimize Kanye’s illness. And there’s a lot of pure disdain for Kanye. Given his history as a controversial figure who regularly makes polarizing, even indefensible, statements, it can be difficult to see where the controversy ends and the mental illness begins. But, alongside such baseless reactions are well-intentioned fans who want to “crack the code” on what’s really up with Kanye, or offer up an armchair diagnosis or an appeal to help him, whether it’s sincere or misguided or for their own motivations.
And that can be just as damaging.
We’re currently seeing this with Britney Spears as well. Her conservatorship Zoom hearing had to be postponed after it was hijacked by #FreeBritney protestors, who ostensibly wanted to help her by “freeing” her from being under her father’s thumb after he was declared her legal guardian over a decade ago.
Now, she will remain under his guardianship for the foreseeable future.
It’s so important to remember that we do not know what’s really going on with celebrities’ mental health, and it’s not our job to speculate. They do not need our opinion, our diagnosis, or our treatment plan. Most of us are not healthcare professionals. And we certainly aren’t their healthcare professionals.
One of the few celebrities to weigh in with valuable advice was Halsey, who has been open about her own struggle with bipolar disorder. She said,
“No jokes right now. I have dedicated my career to offering education and insight about bipolar disorder and I’m so disturbed by what I’m seeing. Personal opinions about someone aside, a manic episode isn’t a joke.”
“If you can’t offer understanding or sympathy, offer your silence.”