Public Speculation About Kanye West's Mental Health is Lazy and Harmful

Frankly, it's none of our business.
Publish date:
February 24, 2016
twitter, mental illness, pop culture, stigma, kanye west

Unless you are literally my grandmother, you have probably scrolled through, studied, or at least heard about Kanye West's recent Twitter activity. Whether you love him, hate him, or are just plain indifferent to him, it's hard to avoid talking about him.

This, most likely, is what West is aiming for: a non-stop conversation revolving around him, his genius, his antics, and his album. (Duh.) I wouldn't call myself a Kanye fan, but I can't keep myself from checking his Twitter feed daily. From the short-lived Wiz Khalifa/Amber Rose feud to yesterday's rant about Bob Ezrin, there is never any shortage of material to discuss, dissect, and quote.

Some folks are entertained, some are uncomfortable, and some are "concerned" about West's mental health. Recently on The Late Late Show with James Corden, the giggling Corden asked Dr. Phil "as a professional," what he "think's [is] wrong" with Kayne.


It's just gross to publicly speculate about someone's mental health. To his credit, Dr. Phil never gives a "professional opinion" — he thinks West's behavior is an intentional ploy to get publicity and points out that it's working — but trying to turn a late night comedy show into an armchair psychology free-for-all is lazy and harmful. (It's also just not funny.)

After side-stepping the question, Dr. Phil rambles on for a while about narcissism and teeth-brushing selfies — which I've never seen, but he seems to be inundated with — and chalks the whole thing up to society's egocentric need to post every "stupid" thought that crosses their mind, finally summing it up with "you used to be [able] to be stupid and get away with it."

I don't think West is being stupid, but I think it's okay if someone else does, and I think it's okay to express that opinion. It's fine to critique West and his Tweets. Some of them — particularly those involving Amber Rose, Taylor Swift, and other women, are quite critique-able — but publicly asking for or musing about the mental health of a human is not criticism.

Frankly, it's none of our business. Some people may feel that his recent behavior is "making it our business," but it's really not. While it's true that being a public person with a public persona inevitably leads to discussions around one's personal life, jokes, "bits," but even "earnest" tweets expressing one's concern for a public figures mental health aren't helpful.

One could argue that this kind of public discussion helps "start a dialogue," but that's definitely not what Corden was doing. If Corden does genuinely feel that Kanye is suffering from some sort of mental illness, he's using it to get laughs (which is gross). If he doesn't feel that way then mental illness itself is the joke, which is also gross and perpetuates the stigma surrounding mental illness.

If one's diagnosis of Kanye stems from the fact that you think he's being an egomaniacal asshole or that he's a sexist jerk for his treatment of Taylor Swift or Amber Rose, you're ignoring the fact that someone can exist with mental illness without being an asshole. To dismiss Kanye saying shitty or sexist things as "mental illness" is not only unfair to those who live with an actual mental illness, it also keeps us from discussing the shitty things he says and from holding him accountable for saying shitty things.

You may think that Kanye West is full of himself, loud, and abrasive. He doesn’t go out of his way to make people think he’s a pleasant person, and doesn’t care if you think he is or not. This may make you uncomfortable, but to chalk it all up to "he's just crazy" is reductive, perhaps more than a bit racist, and ignores the fact that he is a successful 38 year-old man who is in full control of his lyrics and his Twitter account and who has created a non-stop discussion around himself and his work for the past two weeks. Kanye West is fine and, even if he's not, an armchair diagnosis isn't going to help anything.