• Jena


Updated: Jul 23, 2020

Photo: AP Michael Wyke

Celebrities live an odd life- alternately receiving veneration usually reserved for minor deities and derision usually directed towards clowns. Some celebrities handle it better than others- some will show up on the big and small screen, do the necessary press, and still live in relative obscurity while others have almost constant public meltdowns. The public often responds to these celebrity outbursts with peak titillation and videos, articles, and candid statements from 'anonymous sources' will make their circulation around the internet until there's even juicier news about someone else.

Non-stop scrutiny would be difficult for most people to deal with and is probably even more difficult for people who suffer from any sort of mental illness.

Kanye West, rapper and clothing designer turned presidential nominee, recently held his first campaign rally in South Carolina. (West had announced his presidential campaign in early July, saying he was running under the "Birthday Party." Unfortunately, he's missed filing deadlines for several states, but he can still get on the ballot in other states.) Highlights of the rally: declarations that in his plan, everyone who "has a baby gets a million dollars" and his belief that Harriet Tubman "never actually freed the slaves. She just had the slaves go work for other white people."

Of course, West's comments have been met with jeers and criticism, but it's nothing new for him, as he has made several controversial statements in the past, such as saying that slavery was a choice. Some are supporting West's presidential run, some are calling it a bid to help Trump win the presidency, and some are calling it a cry for help or a possible manic episode, citing the rapper's 2016 bipolar disorder diagnosis.

Many people commenting aren't mental health professionals (including me) and I can't really say that this is necessarily a manic episode or if it's a whim or a way to keep his name trending on social media and in the headlines, but his latest actions do appear to be impulsive and poorly-planned. I haven't really followed West's antics for a while- the "slavery was a choice" rant did it for me- but I think a lot of people are tuning in to laugh at him, and it's unfortunate. I'm not defending his statements or jumping on the "genius" bandwagon like some of his fans who criticize other people for "not getting it" and being unable to understand his comments because he's on a different level from the rest of us (sigh), but I will say that he is a talented performer and musician, and at the very least, he's a human being and if his latest comments and behavior are reflective of his mental illness, I truly hope that the people around him help him. Because even being surrounded by people, by cameras, etc. all the time doesn't mean that a person isn't lonely or suffering.

I read a mean-spirited comment the other day about Demi Lovato in which they basically opined that she is too wealthy to be sad, and I've seen this directed toward several different celebrities who are suffering from mental health issues, eating disorders, and other problems. Money doesn't rescue people from mental illness or from self-esteem issues, or from pain. It's easy to forget this because we live in a society that seems to prize wealth above all else and seems to be constantly coaching us to "make it or else." People who are critical of America are just upset because they "didn't make it!" sniped a college student on Instagram. We live in our own game show, where we compete to be the next millionaire or the next Youtube star or the next great singer or the next whatever because we see that carrot dangling above us. And we see celebrities living the lives we want to live and so we despise their weakness, their pain, and their unhappiness because we think that money is the analgesic. And when we see people who have been elevated to celebrity status having a hard time, we tend to deride their pain because they've "got everything." Right?

Like I said, I'm not in Kanye's inner circle and who knows, this could just be another lark for him, but if he's having a manic episode or is suffering in some way, I truly wish him the best.

And this seems like an appropriate time to add: check in on your loved ones. With COVID-19 and upheaval around the world, it isn't an easy time for any of us. Stay safe. Stay well.


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