Long ago I vowed to never write a story about the Kardashians. I'm breaking that vow today.
Since Kanye West has launched an official campaign for the U.S. presidency—and since we now have undeniable evidence that literally anyone can win an election—what he does and says cannot be brushed off as frivolous celebrity fluff. And since things that Kanye has been publicly saying and posting have been especially off-the-rails lately, with many mental health professionals expressing concern about his untreated bipolar disorder, his wife's statements about his mental health are also important to share.
So while some of us would prefer to ignore all things Kardashian, Kim Kardashian West's statement released this morning in an Instagram story feels important to share.
Kim Kardashian speaks out on the cultural stigma of bipolar disorder following alarming series of tweets from Kanye… https://t.co/ssZ0grUgB9— Pop Crave (@Pop Crave) 1595429777.0
Kim Kardashian West wrote:
"As many of you know, Kanye has bi-polar disorder. Anyone who has this or has a loved one in their life who does, knows how incredibly complicated and painful it is to understand. I've never spoken publicly about how this has affected us at home because I am very protective of our children and Kanye's right to privacy when it comes to his health. But today, I feel like I should comment on it because of the stigma and misconceptions about mental health.
Those that understand mental illness or even compulsive behavior know that the family is powerless unless the member is a minor. People who are unaware or far removed from this experience can be judgmental and not understand that the individual themselves have to engage in the process of getting help no matter how hard family and friends try.
I understand Kanye is subject to criticism because he is a public figure and his actions at times can cause strong opinions and emotions. He is a brilliant but complicated person who on top of the pressures of being an artist and a black man, who experienced the painful loss of his mother, and has to deal with the pressure and isolation that is heightened by his bi-polar disorder. Those who are close with Kanye know his heart and understand his words sometimes do not align with his intentions.
Living with bi-polar disorder does not diminish or invalidate his dreams and his creative ideas, no matter how big or unobtainable they may feel to some. That is part of his genius and as we have all witnessed, many of his big dreams have come true.
We as a society talk about giving grace to the issue of mental health as a whole, however we should also give it to the individuals who are living with it in times when they need it the most. I kindly ask that the media and public give us the compassion and empathy that is needed so that we can get through this. Thank you for those who have expressed concern for Kanye's well being and for your understanding.
With Love and Gratitude,
Kim Kardashian West"
Responses to West's statement have been about as mixed as responses to Kanye himself. While it's clear that the family is struggling to get Kanye on board with getting the help he needs, and it's a reasonable ask for the media and the public to be compassionate, there are questions this entire situation raises that the citizenry of the United States needs to answer.
Yes, we absolutely need to drop the stigma associated with mental health issues and offer grade to individuals who are in crisis. I have known absolutely wonderful people with bipolar disorder and other mental illnesses, and I've been around when they've been off of medication and were going through manic episodes.
In daily life for the average person, mania poses some major challenges. But what do we do when an individual is in a position to do a great deal of harm if they aren't managing their disorder? What if Kanye had run for president and won, then went off his medication, then had a manic episode and started issuing Executive Orders left and right? Or worse, got into a beef with another world leader?
We are already dealing with erratic and potentially dangerous rhetoric and behavior coming from the White House. Whether that's due to a personality disorder or just personality is an ongoing debate, but at what point do we establish protocols for gauging the mental fitness of the president? Or do we just let the chips fall where they may, in this system where powerful people with gobs of money have the means of making it to the Oval Office no matter who they are, and hope for the best?
Compassion for Kanye and his friends and family who are trying to support him and get him help is absolutely called for. But so are questions about how much power we are willing to give a person who clearly isn't managing a serious mental illness. While we shouldn't condemn a person with bipolar disorder, we also can't ignore the fact that it directly impacts decision-making—an extraordinarily important consideration for a person in charge of the world's largest nuclear arsenal. Why so many seem willing to overlook that reality in the name of celebrity fandom or creative genius or billionaire businessman is quite baffling, and we really do need to have a conversation about what to do if or when someone with a documented and untreated mental health disorder actually ascends to the most powerful position on the planet.
Because at this point we know that literally anything is possible.
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