Is anybody really surprised with the way Kanye West’s latest mental health episode has been covered and reacted to? Appalled, yes. Saddened, yes.
But not once surprised
In case you haven’t seen or heard, Kanye has allegedly been hospitalised after suffering what was initially being reported as dehydration and sleep deprivation but is now being reported as a ‘psychotic breakdown’. The response to this news, which comes in the wake of the cancellation of his latest tour, has been unfortunately oppositional.
When it comes to the mental health of high profile figures, particularly those as outspoken and divisive as Kanye, there seem to be two distinct sides. Many of us feel the same kind of compassion and empathy we would were the person suffering just another human being, because the 21st century has seen mental illness brought to the light and the stigma attached to it challenged in ways never previously seen or heard before.The outpouring of support for Kanye from all walks of life has been phenomenal.
But many of us choose to go completely backwards and turn into uncaring spectators at best and cold-hearted assholes at worst. The media perpetuates this, as we’ve looked at before, by using loaded words like ‘crazy’, ‘insane’, ‘unhinged’, ‘deranged’ and plenty of others that are nothing but harmful for the public image of mental health issues and for the people dealing with those issues being written off like their illness is something trivial, even something to be ashamed of.
It’s despicable then, to see social media flooded with hate and ignorance towards Kanye West in his latest troubling time. Look through the comments section of any news outlet to have covered this story and you’ll likely find it flooded with comments from people (who probably breathe through their mouths and have physically nailed their caps lock key to their desk to avoid the potential RSI from physically holding it down permanently) like ‘why are you covering this crap? There are people dying and starving out there’, as though it’s only appropriate or even possible to care about one thing at a time.
Comments from people presently scoffing at the man for having mental health issues in the first place, implying that he has no good reason to because he’s a wealthy celebrity, a position even more odious than the above. Whether you’re unfathomably rich or hopelessly destitute and everywhere in between, depression, anxiety and other mental health issues don’t give a single fuck, a fact that has been made plainly, face-palmingly obvious time and again but which people choose to ignore because the reach of their own empathy is unable to extend past their nose.
Mental illness doesn’t discriminate, but people sure as shit still do.
The worst though are those who are sickeningly gleeful at Kanye’s suffering, seeing him as deserving of it for all his previous faux pas’ or because he’s too outspoken for their liking or because he is a part of the Kardashian family or he makes music they don’t enjoy or seemingly any gripe with him that they can latch their talons to. Regardless of how you feel about a person, revelling in their physical and mental suffering is just awful.
In a time where so much progress has been made surrounding mental health issues, this type of response is so disheartening. It may be that Kanye West and his family pay absolutely no attention to sensationalist headlines or derogatory social media posts and even if they did it might just roll off their backs. But to the millions of people out there who suffer from mental health issues, watching a fellow human being going through something so close to home and watching him be torn down and ridiculed for it is a slap in the face and a dangerous backwards step.
Because even though mental health has become such an important issue and so many more resources continue to be poured in to combat mental illness, the facts are still confronting:
- 1 in 5 Australians will experience mental illness each year
- 1 in 4 young Australians (16-24) currently has a mental health condition
- About 3% of Australians are affected by psychotic illness
- 2015 averaged 8.3 deaths per suicide every day.
Picture those same people, the most susceptible being the demographic who look up to and admire someone like Kanye West more than anyone else, looking at one person being trashed and ridiculed for suffering from a mental health condition while being told that they should accept, embrace and tackle their own. Why would anyone want to admit to anyone that they have a mental health condition if the treatment of Kanye West because of his is so hurtful and negative?
It’s frightening that, despite the fact that statistically just about everybody, everywhere, is either directly affected or knows somebody being affected by a mental health condition, that such selectively piss-poor attitudes towards it are still rampant. If the mental health struggles of arguably the most famous man on the planet aren’t able to make people understand that the issue is widespread, insidious and needs to be addressed in the right way, then surely nothing will.
Kanye West has done and said things worth being roasted and disliked for in the past, but being mentally ill is not one of them. Nobody deserves to have their struggles with mental health written off or ridiculed. Nobody. His suffering only proves that there are still so many people in the world who think it’s ok to do exactly that, it just depends on who the person is.
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