Kanye West is running for president, so why the focus on his mental health?

Story by CBC Kids News • Published 2020-07-22 18:10

Don’t make assumptions about other people’s mental health, experts say

From his U.S. presidential campaign to his late-night Twitter rants, you might be hearing lots of rumours swirling about rapper Kanye West.

Along with those rumours are concerns about his well-being.

And even though a lot of people are talking about his mental health, that doesn't mean they should be, experts say.

“It’s unethical and somehow it's been normalized.” — Dr Roger McIntyre, psychology professor, University of Toronto

The presidential campaign

West has been hinting for years at the idea of running for U.S. president in 2020.

On July 4, he made it official on Twitter when he announced he was running as an independent.

On Twitter, rapper Kanye West said: We must now realize the promise of America by trusting God, unifying our vision and building our future. I am running for president of the United States! #2020VISION

West drew crowds to his first campaign event on Sunday in South Carolina where he delivered a lengthy monologue that touched on a wide variety of topics, including religion.

He broke down in tears at one point during his speech, and at another point said that everyone who has a baby should get a million dollars.

But some are questioning how serious he is, given that he needed 10,000 signatures from supporters just to get his name on the ballot in South Carolina, and he didn’t get it done.

So what next?

He made it on the ballot in Oklahoma and still has time to try to qualify in other states, but he has a lot of work to do.

West hinted on Twitter Tuesday night that he might wait until 2024 to run for the presidency again.

Kanye West speaking on his phone.

Last year, Kanye West said publicly that he has bipolar disorder. (Image credit: Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

He also generated buzz after going on two Twitter rants this week, talking about a wide range of topics, including his own marriage.

Many of those tweets have since been deleted.

#PrayForYe trending

#PrayForYe was trending on Twitter early Tuesday as many people on social media linked West’s recent actions to his mental health.

West has openly talked about having a mental health condition called bipolar disorder.

Bipolar disorder is known to cause extreme mood swings, including emotional highs and lows.

Don’t make assumptions about someone’s mental health, experts say

But experts are warning people not to make assumptions or guesses about other people’s mental health.

“We don’t want to be diagnosing someone based on symptoms alone, especially when we’re not qualified to diagnose,” Dr. Martin Antony, a clinical psychologist based out of Ryerson University in Toronto, told CBC Kids News.

Diagnosing someone means identifying a problem or condition a person may have. And that should be done by doctors and medical professionals who have years of experience, rather than people on the internet who have no formal training.

Although Antony said it’s possible West does in fact have bipolar disorder, it doesn’t mean his recent behaviour is a result of the disorder.

Roger McIntyre, a psychology professor at the University of Toronto, agreed.

Kanye West and wife Kim Kardashian West at a basketball game.

Kanye West is a rapper, songwriter, record producer, composer, and fashion designer. (Image credit: Mark J. Terrill/The Associated Press)

He said there are three main issues with speaking about someone else’s mental health:

  1. Only an expert who assesses an individual can draw conclusions on their mental health.
  2. There are many features and manifestations of a disorder that aren’t specific, and there are many reasons why someone could be acting a certain way.
  3. The use of mental illness diagnosis can stigmatize other people with the same mental illness.

McIntyre said labelling someone’s behaviour as the result of a mental illness “has the consequence of labelling everybody with mental illness.”

“I'm seeing a lot of this right now, with social media, with Twitter,” he said, adding that he has seen first-hand the consequences this behaviour can have on people dealing with mental illness.

“It’s unethical and somehow it's been normalized.”

Kim responds on Instagram

West’s wife Kim Kardashian West took to Instagram on Wednesday, where she spoke publicly for what she said was the first time, about her husband’s behaviour and stigmas around mental health.

“I understand Kanye is subject to criticism because he is a public figure and his actions at times can cause strong opinions and emotions,” Kardashian wrote in an Instagram story.

“Living with bi-polar disorder does not diminish or invalidate his dreams and his creative ideas.”

Kim Kardashian West smiling on a red carpet.

Kim Kardashian West says she has never spoken publicly about Kanye West’s mental health because she is protective of her children, as well as her husband’s right to privacy. (Image credit: Evan Agostini/The Associated Press)

Kardashian West went on to say that society should give “grace” to individuals living with a mental health condition.

“Those who are close with Kanye know his heart and understand his words sometimes do not align with his intentions,” she said.

Other celebrities speak out

Celebrities including singer Halsey have also taken to social media, calling for understanding when it comes to mental health, specifically bipolar disorder.

She suggested people who don’t know the situation shouldn’t say anything at all.

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