Kanye West’s Mental Illness is Not Entertainment
People with mental illness need help and compassion, not to be the butt of jokes or source of laughter.
When Kanye West announced on July 3rd that he was running for president, there was a collective groan on one end, and loud laughter on the other.
In the days that followed, the laughter and mockery increased, especially when West gave an interview to Forbes magazine this past Tuesday, in which Forbes says went the West on for “four rambling hours” about his campaign and what he would do if elected. That interview has been received with more laughter by the press, particularly celebrity publications, and people all over social media, who seem to think West’s behavior is the latest form of entertainment.
Only West’s latest antics is not a form of entertainment or even a desperate chance for attention. In fact, it is certainly not something point fingers and laugh at.
West admitted in 2018 that he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, a mental illness that causes periods of either severe depression and mania for the person who has it. For those who do not know, manic episodes consist of rapid speech, irritability, delusions, unusually high energy, and other symptoms. Kanye West’s behavior this past week shows he is experiencing mania, and this is likely so since he admits to not taking any medication needed to manage his disorder.
This means that West is currently dealing with a serious mental health problem, and needs professional help to prevent his episode from getting worse.
He doesn’t, and shouldn’t, be laughed at.
To laugh at someone with a mental illness — be it bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, PTSD, or general anxiety — is to treat such people as if they are sideshow freaks at a circus. As in, they are something odd and unusual, so feel free to stare, point and mock them. As their illnesses get worse, laugh at them even more. It’s funny! That freak is losing their mind! They’re saying crazy things and acting wild! Isn’t it so hilarious?!
No, it isn’t. It never was and never should be.
Mental illness is real and needs to be treated as such, and the people who have them must be treated like any other person in society who has a disability. Do people laugh uproariously at someone having a seizure? Do people take out their phones to film someone struggling to move around with their wheelchair so they can share it on social media for laughs? Hopefully not!
So why do the same to people who have mental illnesses? Are we not people? Is it our fault that we inherited genetics that cause such disorders for which there is no cure for? Why shouldn’t we receive the same compassion those with physical and intellectual disabilities have?
Laughing at someone with a mental disorder reiterates the belief that we are sources of entertainment, instead of being treated as someone who needs the attention of a specialist. Why did Forbes magazine let West ramble for four hours? Because they felt they had a good story? Because they knew the article will do very well, at the expense of someone losing touch with reality?
Same goes to the other publications who listed West’s campaign ideas and plans if he became president. Doing so placed his illness on display as something to mock and laugh at. In other words, “Look, can you believe he said all this? What a freak!”
Mental illness is never funny. Many of those with severe illness face a lifetime of pain and stress from their condition. Not too many want to be friends, or even have intimate relationships with them. Having a job can be hard, with many choosing not to reveal their condition to their employers out of fear of losing their position, despite what the American Disabilities Act says. There is also the endless risk of being mistreated and taken advantage of by those who see these illnesses as a chance to abuse someone. And let’s not get started on the high suicide rates.
Finally, poking fun at mental illness does nothing to end the stigma. In recent years, there’s been more calls to get rid of the stigma associated with mental illness and convince those in need of help to get help. However, with all the laughter and mockery going on towards Kanye West, it appears we still have a long way to go — and a lot of work to do.