Kanye West’s Hospitalisation Ignites An Important Conversation About Mental Health And Masculinity

Source: Marie Claire

Rapper Kanye West’s recent hospitalisation has sparked a lot of dialogue around mental health. Days prior to the star getting checked into UCLA Medical Centre after reportedly suffering a mental breakdown, Kanye’s rants about race, Beyoncé and supporting Donald Trump on stage at his concert, had elicited speculation about his mental state.

TV journalist Piers Morgan blamed Kim Kardashian for Kanye’s state, rapper Snoop Dogg expressed confusion and called Kanye ‘crazy’, and comedian DL Hughley joked about the star’s condition.

But what we do know is that the Kanye situation is serious and has put the spotlight on mental health. As Monday’s news about the rapper broke, a recent video of his track I Feel Like That circulated, with many pointing to him addressing his mental health in the song.

“Do you experience nervousness or shakiness inside, faintness and dizziness? The idea that someone else can control your thoughts. Feeling others are to blame for most of your thoughts. Trouble remembering things, feeling easily annoyed and irritated. Feeling afraid in open spaces or in public. Thoughts of ending your life. Feeling that most people could not be trusted. Poor appetite, heart or chest pains?”

In other Kanye songs, he raps about using prescription drugs such as anti-anxiety medication like Xanax. “If I knew y’all made plans I wouldn’t have popped the Xans,” he raps on No More Parties in LA. And on FML, he raps: “You ain’t never seen nothing crazier than this nigga when he off his Lexapro. Remember that last time in Mexico? Remember that last time, the episode?” Lexapro is an antidepressant and anti-anxiety pill.

“Hearing Kanye talk about Lexapro so openly feels revelatory in a very real way,” Drew Millard writes in Lost and Beat Up: Kanye West, Depression, You, and Me. “Lexapro will expand pop culture’s understanding of depression as this taboo subject or a weird, meme-y badge of honour to a more enlightened position of, ‘Oh shit, antidepressants are totally normal and OK things to take.’”

Locally, this week’s news calls to mind the case of rapper HHP, who earlier this year went publicabout suffering from depression and attempting suicide three times.

Popular radio host Mo Flava reportedly reacted to the news of Hip Hop Pantsula, asking on social media: “Why would you want to kill yourself when you’re so famous and successful?”

This reaction shows some of the misconceptions and ignorance around mental health. For example, if – like Kanye West – you’re monetarily wealthy and famous you can’t possibly suffer from depression. Wrong. Mental illness does not discriminate, or have one face.

Quoting South African Depression and Anxiety Group operations director Cassey Chambers,journalists covering the HHP story, write: “There is massive stigma around mental illness in South Africa, especially among black men as they are not encouraged to talk about their emotions because this is seen as a sign of weakness.

“Society still doesn’t understand enough about mental illness.”

The news about the 39-year-old father of two also comes a month after rapper Kid Cudi’s confession about experiencing suicidal urges, anxiety and depression.

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His revelation inspired an important hashtag related to black men and health: #YouGoodMan?The tag aims to normalise conversations around mental health, and break down stigmas, especially within a society where gender norms, specifically masculine ideology does not promote the expression of vulnerability in any form. And black men are stereotyped as hard and tough, while mental illness is still seen as a ‘weakness’.

Alexander Sandalis’s article, A Conversation About Mental Illness Through the Psyche of Kanye West, focuses on the rapper’s mental state. “It’s clear the evidence suggests West may have been suffering from a mental illness for many years. In any case, even a suspected mental illness should not be taken lightly.”

There has been no official communique about the cause of Kanye’s reported breakdown. His mother-in-law, Kris Kardashian this week said he was exhausted from the tour and experiencing sleep deprivation, while longtime Kanye collaborator, rapper Rhymefest earlier this year accused Kanye of being mentally unstable and cut ties with the star.

Despite these claims, this is not a diagnosis. But what this week’s news surrounding Kanye has done, is igniting and resurrecting an important conversation about mental health, and how instrumental this dialogue is to breaking taboos around mental health issues, and masculinity and mental health issues.

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