Sensationalist Media Reports About Kanye West’s Mental Health Must Stop
Asideáfrom his record-breaking work in both the music and fashion industries, Kanye West has always been a colorful media personality — andánever expressed fear ofáspeaking his mind. However, in the past few months, severaláincidents have created media speculation about West’sámental health.
For example, his recent statements surrounding Facebook, Hillary Clinton and friend Jay Z — as well as his conduct during live performances — have led media toácall his behavior “bizarre.” Some have even questioned whether West is entirely healthy, noting the recent pressures affecting his family.
People close to West statedáthat his most recent tour left him exhausted. He has since pulled out of all remaining dates on the Saint Pablo tour.
On November 22, it emerged that West had been taken to hospital after emergency services were alerted to a disturbance at his home. West, who was described as “medically stable” by the authorities, was then admitted to UCLA Medical Center.
Despite the fact that at the time of writing neither West, his family nor his representatives have commented on his hospital stay, the media has decided that West’s recent behavior and this hospital stay are connected.
For example, take this headline from the Daily Mail:
Kanye’s ‘psychiatric emergency’: West’s doctor ‘feared he’d attack cops who came to hospitalize screaming rapper in cuffs’ during psychotic episode that forced Kim to cancel comeback
In its extensive summary of its own story, the Mail also says:
- Kanyeáreportedly tried to resist paramedics and had to be handcuffed to a gurney while being transported
- Friends say the ‘breakdown’ was triggered by marital problems, a rift with Jay Z and jealousy of BeyoncÚ
The Mail goes on to stateáin its opening paragraph:
Kanye West’s doctor feared he would hurt police as he allegedly screamed about people trying to kill him and had hallucinations while he had a psychotic break at his personal trainer’s house, it has been revealed.á
The rest of the article, which is lengthy, contains images and several “reports” from unnamed and named sources about the events surrounding West’s move to theáhospital for treatment. The Mailáuses medical terms like “nervous breakdown” and “psychotic break” interchangeably and imprecisely that suggestásimple speculation and a lack of facts.
Unfortunately, the idea that West has suffered a “psychotic break” or was displaying “psychotic behavior” has flooded the more gossip-heavy websites.
Perez Hilton tries to absolve himself by putting the term in quotations beforeádelving into moreáspeculation, while the Mirror and others have simply repeated the label without offering any context at all.
The very fact that the media isáindulging in this feeding frenzy demonstrates how societyátreats mental health differently from physical health problems.
When the media forensically dissects what may have happened to West, voyeurism is at work. This is the same approach the media used to coveráBritney Spears during her much publicized struggles in 2007 — and still does today.áIt’s also similar to theásalacious headlines surrounding the ill-health and death of singer Amy Winehouse, to name but a few examples.
In this case, the Daily Mail managed a tour-de-force of terrible reportingáthat is stigmatizing. It then attempts to cover itself by including tweets of celebrity well wishes, but here’s the thing: when any media outlet makes a show out of a person’s mental health issues, it stands to do real damage.
People may be even more reluctantáto seek treatment and be open about their mental health struggles in the first place.
Men, in particular, struggle to open up about mental health issues. Due to enforced gender norms, men are often taught that they should not expressátheir feelings, and they are often made almost deathly afraid of appearing weak.
While we would not splash the details of someone’s physical health problems across media sites, we have a very different approach to mental health. It enforces the notion thatáspeaking out and seeking help or treatment can come with serious professional and personal consequences.
While arguably it is in the public interest to report on West’s hospitalization due to his position as a cultural figure, the details of hisácondition and the reasons why he was admitted should not be up for discussion.
To out West as having mental health issues — and to do so absent of the full facts — is deeply wrong. Furthermore, the media’sárelease of theáemergency service call relating to West’s hospitalization is clearly a step too far.
What we have here is a perfect example of how the media preys upon mentally ill people to sell stories aboutáthe so-called “damaged” or “disturbed.” This is a terrible facet of the industry that makes pain and tears part of its brand.
Media outlets must be held accountable for the real harm theyácan do to people who are already in a vulnerable position of mental ill-health.