Can Kanye West Promote Mental Health Awareness?

Kanye West’s controversial remarks may spark necessary discussion

Posted May 05, 2018

Kanye West and his controversial statements are back in the news. Once known mostly for his musical mastery with words, his proclamations have since grown to include memorable rants from award shows to Twitter.  Recently, West released a two-part interview series in which he shares a vast variety of his insights from politics to fashion and personal experiences to professional collaborations. West’s remarks have yet again sparked debate and speculation, particularly pertaining to his mental health.

Spoiler alert, this article isn’t going to conceptualize Kanye’s mental health concerns. You won’t find a potential diagnosis in this blog. Nevertheless, mental health was a topic West discussed in his interviews. These statements may have been overshadowed by his contentious assertions, however, regardless of his intentions, the interviews can highlight some important mental health considerations. Whether purposeful or not, the interviews include insights pertaining to the powerful influence of stress, people, therapy, and stigma on mental health. In honor of Mental Health Awareness Month, reflecting on these points may help you gain a positive perspective from the contentious media frenzy.

The influence of mental health stressors

An artist encompassing music and fashion, it’s easy to view Kanye as a symbol of success. When paired with his strong opinions, Kanye can be seen as clearly confident, and perhaps overly so. An onlooker may consider that success could be the path to self-centeredness, but could also be the key to freedom from mental health stress. However, individuals who are driven are not invincible and could also be particularly self-critical. When striving for success after success, individuals may set unrealistic high expectations, fear letting others down, and can be consumed with stress regardless of all they have achieved. In the interview, West confessed that he had lost his confidence; Charlamagne’s immediate shock and disbelief is representative of how Kanye’s self-assured façade distracts from his humanity. West went on to admit his concerns with typical mental health concerns such as fear and control. Regardless of fame, wealth, or status, we are all susceptible to mental health stressors, but we are not helpless. West conveyed that he believes we can all learn and grow, himself included. Being cognizant of our mental health concerns opens to door to mental health growth.

The influence of others

As social beings, it is unsurprising to note that we are influenced by the world around us. Yet with fame, we may not realize that celebrities are affected by the same social stressors we may endure. In his interviews Kanye West openly shares how competition and the need for validation have affected him. When detailing the Paris robbery that his wife, Kim Kardashian West, experienced in 2016 he divulged a relatable powerlessness of being unable to help his loved one in a time of need. Similar to the mental health stressors noted above on an intrapersonal level, West’s remarks highlight that interpersonal stressors such as wanting to make others proud and protecting your loved ones can be influential on your mental health regardless of who you are. Further, being affected by those around you is not a weakness, it’s a sign of humanity.

The influence of therapy

In the first interview Charlamange candidly shares about his weekly therapy sessions and inquires about Kanye’s experiences. West shares that although he doesn’t think therapists are bad, they merely have a crash course in who you are as they’re trying to help you, whereas your friends and family may know you better. Hence, Kanye asserts that his typical therapy encompasses long chats with his loved ones. There are several important considerations to make with these few statements. Considering that one in four individuals face mental health concerns, the need to seek mental health care is evident. Help may look different for everyone, and what matters most is being aware of your needs and seeking rather than avoiding assistance. Further, mental health therapy also differs for everyone due to multiple facts including, but not limited to, experience, education, and niche. Along these lines, while some versions of therapy may indeed be brief, outpatient counseling often includes an ongoing rapport-building process in which the practitioner is continually seeking information in order to better understand and help their clients. Finally, therapy is multifaceted, complex and much more involved than a chat with your loved ones. Nevertheless, social support is certainly a curative factor in mental health, and connection with your family and friends can be a helpful resource to promote mental health growth.

The influence of stigma

In both of Kanye’s controversial interviews he both recognizes the stigma connected to mental health and proclaims his wishes to combat said stigma. For example, in the first interview he shares his dismay for the word crazy and goes on to provide examples of how this name-calling is used to minimize. Words are powerful. Socially, the word crazy pops up when an individual is behaving in a deranged manner. However, the overlap between this term and individuals who may be suffering from mental health illness often causes a blurred distinction which in turn paints a picture of individuals with mental health concerns as unbalanced, out of control, and potentially reckless. While unchecked mental illness can certainly cause these symptoms, many individuals living with mental health concerns are able to use active awareness to manage their illness. On the other hand, the blurred distinction and subsequent stigma often inhibits individuals from seeking the mental health care they may need to thrive. Although the majority of individuals who have mental health concerns are not driven to suicide, more than 90% have a diagnosable disorder. Mental health stigma spans beyond semantics. If we wish to change the startling statistics and promote mental health prosperity amongst ourselves and our communities we must recognize the impact of stigma and take a stance to combat it’s powerful force.

As promised, this article was not intended to speculate about Kanye West’s mental health. Nevertheless, if his mental health is on your mind I hope you have considered these powerful influences on mental health, as they will affect you and your community regardless of his concerns. After all the series was first released at the brink of Mental Health Awareness Month, and perhaps these four factors can plant seeds for your mental health awareness, growth, and advocacy.