Monday night, presidential candidate Kanye West tweeted that his wife attempted to commit him, intensifying widespread public concern for his mental health. Ava DeSantis writes on the effect of discussing mental health in the public sphere.
On Sunday night, West held his first political rally in North Charleston, South Carolina, during which he cried publicly over the decision not to abort his eldest daughter. Monday, West tweeted “Kim was trying to fly to Wyoming with a doctor to lock me up like on the movie Get Out because I cried about saving my daughters life yesterday.”
West referenced Get Out, a horror film about racism, again in a later tweet “everybody knows the movie get out is about me.”
People Magazine reported a person familiar with the Kardashian family, saying the family had concerns about Kanye’s health since the rally. “Kim is shocked that Kanye spoke about North at the rally,” said the source. “She is furious that he shared something so private.” The source believes Kardashian-West has concerns that her husband’s public discussion to discuss their children will affect their family life.
West tweeted again Monday, “if I get locked up like Mandela Y’all know why,” referencing South Africa’s post-apartheid president who was a political prisoner for almost 30 years. “Kim tried to bring a doctor to lock me up with a doctor,” tweeted West.
Mental health in the public eye
The series of tweets, deleted soon after their posting, intensified public concern over West’s mental health. Followers tweeted at the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, a former supporter of West’s presidential bid, asking him to “Save Kanye.” Musk replied “we talked about an hour ago. He seems fine.” West was public about his struggle with mental health in the past, telling David Letterman in a 2019 interview, he had bipolar disorder.
Despite West’s openness about his bipolar disorder, experts advise the public not to attribute his erratic behavior to this disorder. “You’ve got to think about all of the other people in the world who may be struggling with similar sorts of issues and think about what it means for those problems to be dragged up in the public eye,” said Peter Kinderman, Professor of Clinical Psychology at the University of Liverpool.
Many celebrities took to social media to speculate about West’s mental health. Comedian Sarah Collonna, News Anchor Scott Daniels, Actor Devon Sawa, and other public figures echoed concerns that Kanye needs medical assistance; but experts believe this speculation can be harmful.
Kinderman advises observers “stick to the facts, stick to what people do, and don’t speculate to potential psychiatric causes of people’s behaviour.”
In a HuffPost op-ed, Lindsay Holmes elaborates on Kinderman’s concerns. “The stigma surrounding mental illnesses like bipolar disorder and schizophrenia, often prevents people from seeking proper help. Disparaging remarks about a celebrity’s mental state on social media only intensify that stigma,” Holmes explains.
Kim Kardashian-West made a public statement on Instagram following her husband’s tweets, calling similarly for “compassion and empathy” in the media response to Kanye’s tweets and presidential bid. Kardashian-West claimed the media has failed to take Kanye’s loss of his mother, bi-polar disorder, and isolation, into account when covering him.
“I understand Kanye is a public figure,” wrote Kardashian-West, “and his actions at times can cause strong opinions and emotions. He is a brilliant but complicated person who on top of the pressure of being an artist and Black man, who experienced the painful loss of his mother, and has to deal with the pressure and isolation that is heightened by his bipolar disorder.”
Kanye later responded to his wife’s statement, tweeting “Kriss and Kim put out a statement without my approval … that’s not what a wife should do,” calling it “White Supremacy.” He also criticized Kim’s decision to work with rapper Meek Mill on prison reform at the Criminal Justice Reform Summit in Los Angeles, writing “I been trying to get divorced since Kim met with Meek at the Warldolf for ‘prison reform.’”