What can be learned from Kanye West

What can be learned from Kanye West

It’s Minority Mental Health Month and in this present climate, we’ve seen that mental health issues can show up in the lives of anyone regardless of race, gender or socioeconomic status.

Evidence of this has played out recently as famed music superstar Kanye West began getting much attention for erratic behavior after sending out a series of confusing tweets and making racially charged comments during a campaign rally, following his decision to run for president.

Fans and celebrities began expressing concerns for the famous rapper, coming against those who would attempt to make light of the situation. In her response, Kanye’s wife, Kim Kardashian-West confirmed that her husband has been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, describing the experience as “incredibly complicated and painful for many to understand.”

Dr. Munther Barakat, director of behavioral health therapy at Aurora Psychiatric Hospital in Wauwatosa, WI, says he believes that for those dealing with a severe mental illness like Kanye, these types of episodes can often be the result of not following through with care which includes medication.

“In times like this, you have to meet the patient where they are and demonstrate a supportive stance,” says Dr. Barakat. “Judging them for decisions they often have limited control over will likely cause them to retreat.”

Kanye’s situation is not unique, and there are many other ways that mental illness among minorities can have major effects if care is neglected. Particularly in the Black community, mental health is often a taboo subject, and going to therapy can be seen as a sign of weakness. Some cultures seek religion to heal issues that stem from mental illness or simply try to “get over” what they are feeling by brushing off their symptoms.

“Right now, the biggest concern is the significant increase in rates of suicide and suicide attempts by Black Americans,” Dr. Barakat says. “Minorities, especially Black Americans have to deal with significant racism and dealing with racism has shown to significantly affect a person’s mental health. In some cases, people end up developing physical symptoms such as chest pains, which ends up sending them to see a physician.”

There are two barriers that remain prominent among minorities when it comes to mental health – internal thoughts about their own mental state and systemic health disparities that limit access to proper care. Over the past few years, Dr. Barakat says he unfortunately has not seen much change in these areas, but he actively encourages everyone to become more aware of how social determinants such as racism and health care inequities can take a toll on someone’s mental state.

If you are struggling with increased anxiety and depression during these trying times, be sure to connect with others as often as possible. Regularly practice self-care strategies such as mindfulness activities, meditation, or exercise. if you are dealing with symptoms that become unmanageable and significantly affect your overall functioning, find an Illinois specialist or Wisconsin specialist to discuss your symptoms and get help.

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  1. Toya,
    Usually we relate social determinants of health with environmental, food & housing, safety, and socioeconomic conditions. I liked that the article points to racism and healthcare inequities can also take a toll on someone’s mental state which can add to the social disparity. Great insights from Dr. Barakat. Thank you

  2. Hello, This is a very interesting article I would like more information regarding this topic if possible. I can be reached by email.



  3. I think this is an important issue, and I’m a little disappointed that we’re posting on July 27th that it’s Minority Mental Health Month. Granted, this is the first I’ve heard of it anywhere, and at such a time when Black Lives Matter is at the forefront of the news, I’m a little surprised. Many of the police encounters that turn violent stem from a lack of understanding in how to handle the mentally ill. I definitely appreciate the article.

  4. I think it’s disappointing that you assume what Kanye is going through. Many of his tweets were about how he was almost aborted and how Kim wanted to abort their first baby. This makes people who deal with any mental illness (I do) feel like we can’t have strong feelings or emotions about things because it must be our mental illness and not valid feeling and emotions we are feeling. Disappointed.

  5. Tracie M Ouimet July 27, 2020 at 1:21 pm · Reply

    Great topic and very timely with the announcement about Kanye West. The public needs to be made better aware of bipolar disease and how to help break the misnomer that “taking medication is a sign of weakness.”

  6. OR Kanye felt very strongly about everything he was talking about and believes whole heartedly in each of the things he sent out into the public square. Is it ok for the public to simply sweep aside the merit and context of his statements because he’s having “an episode”. I’m not really a Kanye fan, but I listened/read his rants and I wasn’t “confused” about anything he was saying. It was straight, raw, and honest and was left thinking, “wow….he just got real and vulnerable with a whole host of people. This must mean a lot to him.” I’m all for awareness, but this article felt very much to attribute his sincerely held (and IMO not insane or radical (qualifying that I am not saying I agree or disagree with him on anything)) thoughts and ideas to symptoms of his mental illness.

  7. I am not sure why Kanye West is being used as the Poster child for Mental Illness? He is just like everyone else… He is being open and honest. To label a person for being as such for having a mental illness is to me scrutinizing his honesty. The Kanye West that I have learned to admire has very raw talent and strength. Let’s not judge. He lost his mother and also, was shot years ago. Which resulted in him needing his jaw wired shut, to say the least.

    Perhaps the trauma from these very painful ordeals, he did suffer mental fatigue. Him having to suffer such a loss and abruptly have to depend on the help of others may have caused Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Let’s look at ourselves before we judge such a brilliant human being.

    Kanye is doing just fine. And the people all love him for being “Real Genuine”. A legend in his own time.

About the Author

Toya Campbell
Toya Campbell

Latoya Campbell, health enews contributor, is a Public Affairs Coordinator at Advocate Aurora Health. She has a BS degree in Communications/Broadcast Journalism from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and previously worked in digital and graphic marketing for a public library. She enjoys spending time with her family and friends, fitness activities and a good spa day.