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Don’t punish Kanye West Mental health has become cruelly fetishised

Help! Credit: Taylor Hill/Getty Images for The Meadows

Help! Credit: Taylor Hill/Getty Images for The Meadows


October 11, 2022   5 mins

Some images of poor mental health from relatively recent films: in The Perks of Being a Wallflower, a deeply traumatised teenage boy (Logan Lerman), who was sexually abused and suffered clinical depression, kisses a sparkly Emma Watson and stands up, triumphant and redeemed, in the back of a pick-up truck while David Bowie’s Heroes plays on the soundtrack.

In Silver Linings Playbook, two very attractive and very mentally ill people (Jennifer Lawrence and Bradley Cooper) find redemption and love through the power of taking part in a dance competition. (Good news, people with bipolar disorder! No need to take your lithium anymore, you can just embrace the power of the tango.) And finally, most of all, in Girl, Interrupted, there’s Angelina Jolie, barely capable of feeding herself but still able to style her sexily disheveled hair and whack on her smudged eyeliner perfectly. These characters are, the movies all suggest, not crazy like the homeless man who shouts in front of the supermarket. They are simply too sensitive for the cold, tin-eared world.

Some images of poor mental health from my own experience, when I lived in various psychiatric facilities in the Nineties, where I was being treated for anorexia nervosa: the black woman who walked around shouting racist obscenities all day. The man who came into the TV room, dropped his trousers, and started masturbating (to Richard Madeley and Judy Finnigan, of all people, so you knew he was really crazy). The woman who pulled out all the hairs in her eyebrows and eyelashes. These people did not look sensitive. They looked ugly and sad.

Which brings me to Kanye West, now known as Ye, and probably the most famous mentally ill person in the world right today. West’s mental state has been in freefall for years and he has been talking about his bipolar disorder for a while. His manic behaviour goes off and on, and right now, it is very much on.

This latest episode started with his fashion show in Paris for his label Yeezy, for which he and his models wore t-shirts emblazoned with the logo White Lives Matter. “This is a God thing,” he informed the audience. When Vogue’s global fashion editor, Gabriella Karefa-Johnson, criticised the show, West mocked her shoes on social media. Things spiralled from there, with — and I’m condensing here, for all of our sakes — West posting messages in which he accused Puff Daddy/Puff Diddy/Diddy of being controlled by Jewish people, and then he accused his ex-wife Kim Kardashian of hiding his kids from him. He followed these rants by tweeting: “when I wake up I’m going death con 3 On JEWISH PEOPLE.” Because Jews, he wrote, “black ball anyone who opposes your agenda”.

The condemnation has been universal. West’s attacks on Karefa-Johnson prompted the model Gigi Hadid to write on his Instagram “You wish u had a percentage of her intellect” and called him “a bully and a joke”. Many are talking about him being “cancelled”, whatever that even means when we’re talking about one of the most famous artists in the world. West’s former friend John Legend and — somewhat randomly — Jamie Lee Curtis have reprimanded West for his antisemitic comments. West, it is generally agreed, needs to be held accountable for his actions.

There has been an enormous amount of talk about mental health over the past two decades. Back when I was in hospital, having mental health issues was embarrassing, as though you were some kind of Jason Vorhees figure from the Friday the 13th movies, or locked in a cell with a muzzle over your face like Hannibal Lecter. Partly thanks to movies like the ones listed above, and partly thanks to better education, things have swung very much the other way.

Now, people talk openly about taking “mental health days” and being “triggered” by unpleasant comments or images, demanding that people make allowances for them and their fragile mind. Twentysomethings talk anxiously about “burn out” and it’s the rare professional athlete who at this point hasn’t talked about his mental health issues — usually anxiety, addiction or depression. Mental illness has become a kind of identity for some people, and it’s a fine line these days between being open about your problems and fetishising them. To discuss your mental health proves you are in touch with your feelings. That you are revealing your true glowing self, beneath the layers society forces on you. That you are self-aware. Sensitive. And special.

Whatever anyone else wants to say about West, no one can accuse him of not being self-aware about his problems. He raps about “my bipolar shit” and he let himself be filmed having a full manic episode in the three-part documentary Jeen-Yuhs, directed by West’s friend and occasional collaborator, Coodie. I cannot recommend this documentary highly enough, whether you’re a West fan or not, because I’ve never before seen a movie that so clearly charts what a descent into a full-blown mental health crisis looks like.

In the first part, we see West as a young, happy and ambitious producer, desperate for a record deal. In the second part, we see him attain unimaginable success. And then in the third part, his beloved mother Donda dies and West becomes increasingly erratic — hanging out with Donald Trump, talking about running for president — until in one scene, he becomes so manic that Coodie, devastated at the state of his friend, puts down the camera, and turns it off.

This documentary was released earlier this year, illustrating with total clarity how poor mental health has corroded West’s mind and life. And yet despite that, and despite all the alleged hyperawareness of mental health these days, there is a bewildering resistance to seeing West’s behaviour as a symptom of his illness. Rather, people seem determined to see it as a reflection of him as a person.

I’m Jewish, but when I read West’s posts I didn’t feel offended. I just felt sad that an artist so talented is now so clearly out of his tree. Maybe West really does think Diddy is being controlled by Jewish people. Or maybe that reflects his true feelings as much as that man in hospital was genuinely turned on by Richard and Judy. “Being bipolar doesn’t make you racist,” people shout on Twitter. Not necessarily, but poor mental health makes you say a lot of crazy stuff, because it’s not about being sexily impetuous or soulfully sensitive. It’s about being out of your fucking mind. And I get that’s not special or sparkly, but then, tuberculosis is a lot less pretty than some of those Victorian novels made it sound. Illness sucks.

Before I went into hospital, I was terrified of a homeless man who hung out near my school and would shout at me about Jesus while I waited for the bus. But I harboured an intense fascination with women like Sylvia Plath and Virginia Woolf — the usual folks overly intense teenage girls tend to be drawn towards. After I left hospital, I realised I’d been making a false distinction, between Good Mental Illness and Bad Mental Illness. Good Mental Illness was the kind I could fetishise, memorising Plath’s last poem, pouring over Woolf’s late letters. Bad Mental Illness was the kind I crossed the street to avoid, because it smelled bad. And yet, mental illness destroyed all these people’s lives, no matter how talented or eloquent. You can’t fetishise one and condemn the other.

Maybe it’s because West is so wealthy and famous that people are unwilling to make the allowances for him that they demand for themselves when they take a mental health day. He doesn’t look the part, because only photogenic teens and twentysomethings with good eyeliner suffer from mental illness, not egocentric fortysomethings who behave like arseholes.

Yet I would bet that many of the same people who are demanding West be held accountable for his actions would be horrified at the idea of sending a mentally ill person who commits a terrible crime to prison. He should be sent to a psychiatric hospital, they would say. That is correct, and the same is true of West. He doesn’t need punishment — he needs help.


Hadley Freeman is a staff writer at The Sunday Times. Her latest book, Good Girls: A Story and Study of Anorexia, was published in 2023.

HadleyFreeman

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Hugh Bryant
Hugh Bryant
1 year ago

To be fair to Kanye, it must be difficult to stay sane when you’re completely surrounded by the army of robotic conformists that is the contemporary US elite. After all, is he really any madder than the women have penises academics or any random journalist on the NYT or Wapo? I wonder …

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Oh that’s interesting – Unherd rejects comments related to the possible negative outcomes (work it out) of such erratic behaviours by people suffering mental health issues.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

All sorted – apparently the servers were too busy to accept comments.

Ci Cero
Ci Cero
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

The strange thing about ideology seems to be that it thwarts the field of normalcy for an entire group of adherents – such that being socialised into it is functional relative to the group standards, even if it is out of step with previously normal behaviour and sentiment.

Ci Cero
Ci Cero
1 year ago
Reply to  Hugh Bryant

Perhaps the comparison, Hugh, is moot, given that ideologies thwart the field of normalcy in which derangement is evaluated.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

Wearing a “White Lives Matter” t shirt is evidence of courage, not mental illness. I wish I had Kanye West’s balls, and applaud him and Candace Owens for using their black privilege to such a morally upright purpose.

David Kingsworthy
David Kingsworthy
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

Agreed…. the probability that “West’s mental state has been in freefall for years” doesn’t invalidate all of his actions. Surely one can exhibit admirable and sane characteristics while simultaneously posting bat$hit crazy tweets?

Aphrodite Rises
Aphrodite Rises
1 year ago

Maybe you have to be a little crazy to have the courage to stand up to the BLM mafia.

Don Juan
Don Juan
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

This article is about mental health and I agree with the writer that it is not to be fetishied or trivialised. However, as Mr Craven points out, why should stating “White Lives Matter” be seen as a symptom of mental illness? All lives matter yet you wouldn’t know it. For instance, where are the voices of the white-woke elite gushingly falling over themselves for BLM with regard the young women of Iran? Do Iranian lives not matter?
I think Kanye West was pointing to this hypocrisy, the double standards, with his “White Lives Matter”. At a stroke he has disenfranchised the white supremacists who have stolen this slogan and made it their own (and have tried the same with the national flag). What is a white racist to make of a black man wearing a “White Lives Matter” shirt? Quite frankly, it is not just courageous, as Mr Craven asserts, but a stroke of genius. All life is precious and Mr West has made the point beautifully.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  Don Juan

“Quite frankly, it is not just courageous, as Mr Craven asserts, but a stroke of genius. All life is precious and Mr West has made the point beautifully.”
I concede the point. Thanks for putting me right.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

I appreciate what Kanye West, and Candace Owens, and Don Juan (do you pronounce it the Spanish or the Byronic way?), and Richard Craven have brought to the conversation. Just because someone is crazy doesn’t mean they aren’t right about some things. All lives matter, and while I bristle at the term “white lives” (white isn’t a life, it’s a skin tone), white people are people too.

Last edited 1 year ago by Laurence Siegel
Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago

Thanks. As it happens, I read Byron’s Don Juan in its entirety a few months ago.

B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago
Reply to  Richard Craven

For anyone who is interested and hasn’t seen this Candace owens documentary on the blm movement was released yesterday, only just come across it myself so not watched it yet https://www.dailywire.com/news/how-to-watch-candace-owens-new-documentary-the-greatest-lie-ever-sold

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  B Emery

Thanks, I’ll check it out.

Roddy Campbell
Roddy Campbell
1 year ago

He’s attracted all the opprobrium because he’s the wrong type of crazy. If he was a BLM and Biden supporter, social media would throb and ooze sympathy.

4 legs good 2 legs bad still applies to people with mental illness.

Last edited 1 year ago by Roddy Campbell
B Emery
B Emery
1 year ago

I think Kanye with his white lives matter is trying to get at the fact the blm movement could cause more divisions in America. Divisive political movements prevent ALL the masses in America from coming together in a common cause for change for the good and peace of all, that’s what big government/ business is afraid of and they are especially afraid of people like Kanye as he has a bigger following than Biden himself. He is trying to promote inclusive politics instead of the old divisions of left and right which are fast becoming irrelevant, not sure he’s coming across great but then the power of the media is such as to distort his point and ridicule him.

Richard Roe
Richard Roe
1 year ago

A wonderfully humane article. Thank you

Abe Stamm
Abe Stamm
1 year ago

When Hadley, with her gender and religious neutral British name, says “I’m Jewish, but when I read West’s posts I didn’t feel offended”, she represents a minority of religious and ethnic Jews. The vast majority of Jews around the globe who saw Kanye’s Tweet, or read about it, were appalled by his antisemitic remarks, which reached his 31.4 million impressionable Twitter followers before it was rightly removed, and he was consequently censored. I don’t live in England, but it took 2 seconds of Google searching to find out that 2021 represented a record year of reported hate crimes perpetrated against British Jews…2,255. Before WWII there were about 500,000 Jews living in England, now census data reveals only about 260,000, which means either Jews are fleeing England en masse, or they’re afraid to publicly reveal their religion to the British government. Even though British Jews have migrated to Israel by the thousands, a large percentage are obviously concerned for their safety (or social standing) when identifying themselves as Jewish.
In the United States a Jew is 6 times more likely to be a victim of a hate crime than a Muslim. 2021 was also a record year for antisemitic “incidents” in the United States…2717.
In short, I don’t care if Kayne West takes his meds or not. If he has the power to incite violence by ranting against Jews (or any other marginalized group), spewing ancient antisemitic tropes to his 10’s of millions of acolytes, then I don’t have a problem with social media platforms sticking a sock in his nasty mouth. I don’t know about England, but in the United States it’s extremely difficult to get someone involuntarily committed to a mental hospital if they’re not a threat to the physical wellbeing of themselves or others. Hate speech won’t get you committed to a mental health facility…the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution protects freedom of speech, even if it’s pernicious.
Yes…even JEWISH LIVES MATTER.

Tony Price
Tony Price
1 year ago
Reply to  Abe Stamm

I think that you will find that UK Census data reveals that a large majority of the UK population before WWII ticked the ‘Christian’ box, now it’s rather less. Don’y you think it more likely that fewer people defining themselves as Jewish is because of the very large fall-off of religious observance and self-description?

Abe Stamm
Abe Stamm
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

From my experience as a Jew, a non-practicing secular Jew born in the United States, members of the “Tribe” always identify as ethnic Jews, even if they’re not religious…unless they’re afraid to do so. My ancestors fled Europe starting in the 1860’s, victims of pogroms that occurred in Russia, Poland, Lithuania, and Ukraine. My Eastern European relatives who couldn’t emigrate by the late 1930’s didn’t survive The Holocaust.

Jon Barrow
Jon Barrow
1 year ago
Reply to  Abe Stamm

Jews have the lowest birthrates, even lower than the ‘white British’ native pop.

Lewis Lorton
Lewis Lorton
1 year ago
Reply to  Tony Price

No. IME, and in my personal life, Jews consider themselves Jewish without regard to the extent of their religious observance. I would think of myself or anyone denying their Jewish heritage as being some sort of cowardice.

Colin K
Colin K
1 year ago
Reply to  Lewis Lorton

Israel allows citizenship based on genetics as I understand it. It can be considered a religion and a racial group.

Last edited 1 year ago by Colin K
Alison Sutcliffe
Alison Sutcliffe
1 year ago
Reply to  Abe Stamm

The first sentence in Hadley’s Wikipedia entry reads: Freeman was born in New York City to a Jewish family. 

Don Juan
Don Juan
1 year ago
Reply to  Abe Stamm

Well said Abe Stamm. That you had to qualify “JEWISH LIVES MATTER” with “even” is indicative of where we’re at: you cannot say any life matters – of any colour or ethnicity- other than “Black Lives Matter” without fear of somesort of backlash. Antisemitism is persistent and nasty – only recently people were calling publicly for the rape of Jewish women on London streets yet this did not ruffle the hair of the woke-white elite and their woke-white foot soldiers who would gladly thrash Portland or London for BLM.
No need to apologise for saying “Jewish Lives Matter”. “Even” say it with or without capitals, high voice or low voice.

Lindsay S
Lindsay S
1 year ago
Reply to  Abe Stamm

“which reached his 31.4 million impressionable Twitter followers” I suspect that a good deal of his “followers” are, in fact, ‘popcorn in hand’ observers awaiting his next meltdown, as opposed to impressionable.

Last edited 1 year ago by Lindsay S
Daniel Wahlqvist
Daniel Wahlqvist
1 year ago
Reply to  Abe Stamm

I agree Jewish lives matter of course. That doesn’t mean we should put socks in any nasty mouth I’m afraid. I think it’s really stupid to censor Kanye, a temporary suspension is ok.

John Croteau
John Croteau
1 year ago

It’s amazing how illiberal elitists invoke mental illness when someone influential disagrees with them politically or spiritually. How smug to think their world is “sane” where Ye’s world is not. No one will condone anti-Semitic remarks (perhaps a product of bipolar disorder), but his WLM and anti-abortion stances are nothing but sane courage. Give him the same benefit of the doubt that other bipolar people are given. Listen to his message and seek common ground to understand the man’s messages.

Richard Craven
Richard Craven
1 year ago
Reply to  John Croteau

Exactly.

odd taff
odd taff
1 year ago

Great piece. We are all cracked to some extent. I’ve known people for years on a casual basis and then a chance remark has opened up some remarkably odd beliefs.

Andrzej Wasniewski
Andrzej Wasniewski
1 year ago

Punish Kanye West? For wearing “White Lives Matter” and reacting badly to the idiots who were offended by it? Antisemitism is abhorrent to me but Kanye West is not going around cancelling Jewish artists. But those attacking him, the scum called “US elite”, is vicious and bloodthirsty. They prove it every day. His mental health? The only proof that he is not well is ever marrying this synthetic robot Kim Kardashian.

Last edited 1 year ago by Andrzej Wasniewski
Abe Stamm
Abe Stamm
1 year ago

When Hadley states that “— somewhat randomly — Jamie Lee Curtis have reprimanded West for his antisemitic comments”, she obviously isn’t aware that Ms. Curtis’s father was Jewish, and she’s been influenced by the Jewish faith, especially in her adulthood. So that isn’t a random reprimand. Her father was so concerned about being labeled as a “Jewish actor”, thereby limiting his appeal and opportunity in Hollywood, that he changed his birth name from Bernard Schwartz to Tony Curtis. Ms. Curtis’s paternal grandmother and uncle were both diagnosis with schizophrenia, the later being institutionalized, so she’s very aware of the realities of dealing with severe mental illness in American society.

Victoria Shaw
Victoria Shaw
1 year ago
Reply to  Abe Stamm

I think the randomness was the friendship.

Abe Stamm
Abe Stamm
1 year ago
Reply to  Victoria Shaw

I disagree. The author was referring to the randomness of Curtis’s remark, as if she didn’t have the right to say anything, and her opinion was, using American slang, “coming out of left field”. John Legend was the referenced “friend”.

Michael Miller
Michael Miller
1 year ago

Such a helpful and much needed article. But even in the places that are there to help people such a lack of understanding is rife amongst staff. Just before I retired from one such place I was busy handing over my case-load to a successor. One such man on my list was very paranoid and given to ringing up our unit to say that he couldn’t attend because there “were too many niggers working there”. I spent many hours talking him round so that he would visit and when he did inevitably his outbursts would calm down and he was very agreeable company. My successor happened to answer the phone to him and said immediately “if you use language like that I’m going to put the phone down”. Which she did. It is an utter indictment of our life and times that we seem unable to offer asylum to those who suffer the ravages of mental disorder and instead hold them accountable in an utterly mean spirited and spiteful fashion.

Gayle Rosenthal
Gayle Rosenthal
1 year ago

My heart goes out to Kanye. I am 66. A suicidal mental illness has stricken 3 generations in my family. The behaviour and speech of all 3 were remarkably similar and all 3 were untreatable. I have also seen dementia, and recovery from dementia. What seems clear is that health professionals don’t pay attention to the obvious signs – behaviour and speech. Further, health professionals do not do testing for organic health problems when they encounter a mentally ill person. I suggest that many who are labeled mentally ill actually have organic illnesses that are overlooked and ignored, not because they can’t be helped, but because there is a bias in the mental health field that all mental illness is a “chemical imbalance”. Big Pharma certainly has no incentive to change this bias. The mentally ill patient should be given a full clinical workup, just as a patient with a head injury receives. Consideration should also be given to the recent discoveries around autoimmune psychosis. Discharging patients from healthcare facilities with no clinical workup, supportive care or environment is gross medical malpractice in my opinion. But that is the “standard of care.”

Chris Hume
Chris Hume
1 year ago

The modern narrative that one is either a victim to be celebrated or a villain to be reviled breaks down when confronted with severely mentally ill people. That narrative doesn’t have the subtlety to cope with the complications of ordinary people, let alone those with complex psychological conditions.
Hadley is right, the public likes mental illness to be semi-romantic, with the notion that someone so sensitive wasn’t made for such a terrible world. It has been conflated with intellect and depth. When confronted with the brutal reality of what severe psychiatric conditions entail – the bizarre and often frightening behaviour – the sympathy dries up.
Last year Britney Spears was celebrated as the liberated victim of her rapacious family. Her obvious mental illness is leading her to ever more erratic behaviour and comments, and the mob is turning against her. She’ll be cast out in due course when in her instagram rants she attacks a sacred cow of some kind.

Cantab Man
Cantab Man
1 year ago

Thought-provoking article, Ms Freeman – thank you.

My view is that folks who harbor hatred in their hearts for those with immutable or close-to-immutable characteristics (be it race, ethnicity, religion or other) are generally unhelpful to others in their society. This is as true for Kanye as it is for groups that desire a world of racism and ethnic strife, be it the Proud Boys, BLM or proponents of Critical Race Theory.

Yes, Kanye needs help and he’s very ill. That said, one can feel sorry for and help the person with the illness while still setting the record straight about what the ill person falsely projects from their bubble onto the world stage.

The most eye-opening self-reflection is whether one sees what Kanye says as very wrong while still having a soft spot in their hearts for other people and groups that preach racism, ethnic superiority or Other-ism narratives that are antithetical to Rev Martin Luther King’s ‘Dream’ speech:

“I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.”

The bar that Rev King set is truly the gold standard for me personally and for all societies.

ralph bell
ralph bell
1 year ago

Really well written and informative article.
It is so difficult to decide who is playing on a condition and who is genuinely affected.
As you say true mental illness is often degenerative and wrecks lives…

Dave Corby
Dave Corby
1 year ago

When is it mental illness rather than just occasional weak moments where you lash out because you are just tired of the constant attacks – and say things you regret later?
I cannot imagine the pressure he is under because of his political views while also in a broken marriage and trying to do his best for his children.

Ali W
Ali W
1 year ago
Reply to  Dave Corby

There is a term called “situational” depression, rather than chronic, that I believe can be used for other mental illness as well. I would think that could be used for what you’re talking about.

Liam Purcell
Liam Purcell
1 year ago

Nothing funny or life affirming about Manic Depression apart from finally accepting you have the illness, that helped me a little. Lithium and Prozac every day for 20 plus years. Blood test every three months was not discharged from psychiatric care till 2019. My long suffering spouse has stayed with me as she knows that I am inherently a good guy not the evil manipulating b*****d that is one of my personality manifests when in a mixed mood. I have written poetry that has been judged as very good, I have done daft things whilst in the forces that have garnered praise.
So much potential I have lead, counselled and hopefully aided many The elephant in the room of course MD the illness robs me of consistency thus so many things fall away, so many supposedly good ideas nothing.
I am what I am, play the hand I was dealt but this f*****g daemon in my soul is not going to be bigged up

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

He’s another human vehicle veering off the road to a probable early death because such people seem to be ‘unhelpable’. He seems to be treading the same path as the amazing chanteuse Amy Winehouse, whose demise was also, apparently, inevitable.

CHARLES STANHOPE
CHARLES STANHOPE
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

It’s called ‘Darwinian self-selection, and there is no known cure.

Ali W
Ali W
1 year ago

I suppose it’s because Kanye West is much more famous, but nobody cared when Nick Cannon and other black celebrities went on anti-Jewish diatribes. But I also think it’s because these celebrities still tithe to the holy church of the DNC.

David Batlle
David Batlle
1 year ago

Jews are over represented in the entertainment industry, so if you have a beef with the entertainment industry (as Kanye so clearly does), then he thinks he has a beef is with “Jews.” That’s not mental illness, it’s flawed thinking. And a lot of people think that way.
Otherwise, I’m a fan.

Last edited 1 year ago by David Batlle
Michael Askew
Michael Askew
1 year ago

“Mental illness has become a kind of identity for some people, and it’s a fine line these days between being open about your problems and fetishising them. To discuss your mental health proves you are in touch with your feelings. That you are revealing your true glowing self, beneath the layers society forces on you. That you are self-aware. Sensitive. And special.”
PERFECT!

Steve Jolly
Steve Jolly
1 year ago

I’m curious why this is seen as an either/or type situation. Having a mental illness doesn’t cause all bad behavior, nor should it excuse it. Two things can be true. Kanye West can have mental illness, and also be an anti-Semitic jerk. The two facts are not mutually exclusive of one another. Two what extent is West’s antisemitism influenced or caused by his mental illness is a question that psychiatrists would have difficulty answering, and different doctors would likely have different opinions. Fetishizing mental illness by making it appear hip and cool is bad. Mental illness should not be seen as cool or hip. It should be seen as debilitating to those who suffer from it and as a serious handicap to employment, relationships, and basically any other human activity. Chalking up bad behavior to mental illness though is also bad, because it further dehumanizes those who have mental illness by undermining their personal agency, and as someone who has suffered from mental illness, I can tell you that personal agency, admitting to yourself that you have a problem and need professional help, is a crucial first step in the healing process.

Evalynn Bennett
Evalynn Bennett
1 year ago
Reply to  Steve Jolly

I feel like if it was a true opinion, he’d have made it abundantly clear long before now. I know personally when I’m manic I truly 100% believe total bullsh*t. But you are absolutely correct that they don’t have to be either or.

Robin B
Robin B
1 year ago

I am sure the author of this article knows what she’s talking about. My worry is that West has over 30 million followers on Twitter alone. That, somewhat incredibly, happens to be over twice as many Jews as there are in the world (circa 14 million). As a direct result of his rants ‘demonstrators’ took it upon themselves to hang banners from a bridge over a busy LA highway saying that “Kanye was right about the Jews”. They threw in the Nazi salute, just in case the banners weren’t sufficiently chilling.
The issue now is that the genie is out of the bottle and Jew hate is on the rise and I for one am worried about where that leads.

Robin B
Robin B
1 year ago

I am sure the author of this article knows what she’s talking about. My worry is that West has over 30 million followers on Twitter alone. That, somewhat incredibly, happens to be over twice as many Jews as there are in the world (circa 14 million). As a direct result of his rants ‘demonstrators’ took it upon themselves to hang banners from a bridge over a busy LA highway saying that “Kanye was right about the Jews”. They threw in the Nazi salute, just in case the banners weren’t sufficiently chilling.
The issue now is that the genie is out of the bottle and Jew hate is on the rise and I for one am worried about where that leads.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago

I have heard of Kanye West, but have no idea what he does. The other people mentioned, I have not even heard of. I guess there really are parallel universes that do not impinge one upon the other. I cannot be certain, obviously, but suspect that mine is a better place to live.

Last edited 1 year ago by polidori redux
Joff Brown
Joff Brown
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

well done, you.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

And vanity means you have to comment about yourself without reference to the general issues raised in the article?

Last edited 1 year ago by Ian Stewart
Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

She/he has a point though- it’s remarkable that for all Kanye’s self proclaimed ‘genius’ how little of his music I actually seem to hear compared to that of Prince or Morrissey or Paul McCartney – where is this wonderful genius to be found? Where are the golden songs everyone is listening too?
He reminds me of Elon Musk – a whole load of internet hype and a rather underwhelming product.
He seems as much a victim of the madness that is the internet as anything else – all the hype, all the drama, all the gossip- how very droll.
But hey what do I know? If anyone can point me in the right direction I’m very open to having my mind changed


Paul M
Paul M
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

He’s steadily released albums starting in early 2000. He was producing before then. I assume you’re not into rap or hiphop of any kind. Wake up, you’ve been sleeping a couple decades.

Jeff Butcher
Jeff Butcher
1 year ago
Reply to  Paul M

What a snotty comment. D**khead!

Ali W
Ali W
1 year ago
Reply to  Jeff Butcher

I liked his song “Heard em say” from his earlier work. He has a new Christian album out now and I heard a song from it that I admit I enjoyed despite being completely secular.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Where is the vanity?

Pat Rowles
Pat Rowles
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Cool story, bro.

Martin Bollis
Martin Bollis
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

Not sure why the cool cats are ganging up on you. Your point that there is a huge demographic (I suspect a considerable majority) that isn’t concerned with the trivial froth of modern life, particularly social media and celebrity, is valid.

That a world without either would be a better place, I think is beyond debate.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Yeah. I have touched a raw nerve: I just don’t seem appreciate the significance of this guy,.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

I seem to have hit a nerve.

Ali W
Ali W
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

You could have just stayed out of the conversation instead of commenting only to let us know you’re too good to be a part of it.

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Ali W

I made no such claim.You need to grow up mate

polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Ali W

Why should I “stay out of the conversation”? I am performing a valuable public service by pointing out that, to any civilised human being, the culture represented here is utter cr@p and its disputes of no consequence.

Ali W
Ali W
1 year ago
Reply to  polidori redux

I really don’t know what type of response you expected from such useless and self-congratulatory input. Additionally, just because you are ignorant of this subject matter doesn’t mean it has no consequence. Younger voting blocs are heavily influenced by this kind of discourse, however unfortunate, and some of us prefer to stay apprised. I don’t blame you for choosing not to, I blame you for mistaking that anybody would find that fact interesting.

Last edited 1 year ago by Ali W
polidori redux
polidori redux
1 year ago
Reply to  Ali W

?
I wasn’t trying to be interesting or self-congratulatory. I was merely pointing out that I find the cultural world portrayed in this article to be inconsequential. Why does this upset you so?

Evalynn Bennett
Evalynn Bennett
1 year ago
Reply to  Ali W

The same could be said about your comment. You don’t get to tell people they can’t comment. No need to be a total b*tch because someone has a differing opinion.

Alan Groff
Alan Groff
1 year ago

Nassir Ghaemi’s A First-Rate Madness is a worthwhile in this context.

Ye is like the fool in a Shakespearean drama.

Sisyphus Jones
Sisyphus Jones
1 year ago

Something about this piece feels manic and incoherent. I’m still not sure of its thesis. If it’s about mental illness (diagnosed by a journalist of a stranger to her) then okay. But it’s not. It’s about Kanye West. I’ve always thought Kanye was a nut. I’ve just never wasted time talking or thinking about it. You gotta admit, it’s a little conspicuous that the feigned appeal for sensitivity to Kanye’s putative untreated mental illness comes after he wore a “White Lives Matter” t-shirt to a fashion show. After I finished reading the article I scrolled back to the top to find out who the author was. When I read “staff writer at The Guardian. She was recently named Columnist of the Year by the British Society of Magazine Editors” I spit coffee across the kitchen. But in a good way.

Last edited 1 year ago by Sisyphus Jones
Antony Hirst
Antony Hirst
1 year ago

Punish him? He did something wrong? I thought he was righting wrongs. Goes to show….

Last edited 1 year ago by Antony Hirst
Guy Pigache
Guy Pigache
1 year ago

I have a very close friend who has emerged from ITU after her life fell apart due to her bipolar husband. Excuse me if my sympathies lie with her.

Evalynn Bennett
Evalynn Bennett
1 year ago
Reply to  Guy Pigache

Your friend is so irrelevant to this conversation. Kanye West was not your friend’s bipolar husband.

Victor T
Victor T
1 year ago

Dude refuses to get help.

Laurence Siegel
Laurence Siegel
1 year ago

Don’t you mean that mental illness has become fetishized? You said “mental health.” Where are the copyeditors?
At any rate, Hadley Freeman knows that mental illness is not just another way of seeing the world, or being born a misfit, or being sane in an insane world. It is being really sick and desperately wanting to get better. Thanks for this article.

Christopher Barclay
Christopher Barclay
1 year ago

Kanye West is being punished in the way he is, because he is a black man refusing to get back onto the Democrat plantation.

Howard Ahmanson
Howard Ahmanson
1 year ago

i believe in the necessity of civil commitment for some, especially some of the homeless. But what we must not deny is that these ARE a sort of prison; they are to the civil law what prisons are to the criminal law. And, as C S Lewis warned us, we must not entirely separate the question of “deserved” from any form of compulsory confinement or treatment.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

That’s weird – a comment has disappeared where I suggested West might be heading towards an early demise like Amy Winehouse. Heyho, try again. My point being that some celebrities appear to be ‘unhelpable’.
But an excellent article.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago
Reply to  Ian Stewart

Sorted – busy servers not a filter.

Katy Hibbert
Katy Hibbert
1 year ago

The author is over-thinking Kanye West. The only “mental health issue” he has is being profoundly stupid, boorish and primitive. Were he not black, more people would say so.

alec sahari
alec sahari
1 year ago

I think Kanye West is the most significant artist in the world today; at the very least, a 21st century equivalent of David Bowie.
I see him as a Shaman who shows us a different view of reality that is filtered through his magical consciousness, in order to enable us to understand the world we live in . His idiosyncratic reinvention of music, fashion and Christianity; his relationships, his politics and his mental illness, are all part of his mystical offering.
I consider him to be a prophet of our times.
I realise that this may be a minority opinion.

Paul M
Paul M
1 year ago

Man, a terrible article. I see nothing wrong with what Ye has posted. Jews have controlled Diddy throughout his career (his label heads have *always* been Jewish, his publishers, the same!). I don’t understand why people have a hard time with Kanye’s statement? Hmmm.

Ruth Ross
Ruth Ross
1 year ago

This is what i would call a ‘hit piece’. I like people like Ye who say what they think; all of us must stand up with our own opinions, like he does. Do not do what this so-called writer did and dismiss free speech by calling free speech a mental disorder. Now, THAT is truly sick.

standstoreason@mac.com standstoreason@mac.com
standstoreason@mac.com standstoreason@mac.com
1 year ago

This one goes out to the entire media world: Don’t “PUNISH” Kanye West? Then don’t “PUBLISH” Kanye West. Don’t “PROMOTE” Kanye West. Don’t “PROP” Kanye West.
Moreover, the global media influencer complex doesn’t give a damn about Kanye West or his purported mental health problems. If they did, they’d send their reporters out into the hinterlands and talk to regular people – doctors, therapists, psychiatrists, psychologists, other professional people…and, of course, many of the millions of voiceless people who have a mental illness, but don’t have the clout, personage or platform of a Kanye West.
“Oh, look! Kanye West is normal again!” will never be published by the aforesaid global media influencer complex. Instead, they want to see him fall. They want to see him fail. They want the effing trainwreck.
We all know why you do these things. Mouse clicks, eyeballs and eardrums. Advert bucks. Subscription bucks. Get the proletariat riled up. Get everybody talking about this. You know, like what I’m doing here. This is what you want, right GLOBAL MEDIA? ROFLMAO

Last edited 1 year ago by standstoreason@mac.com standstoreason@mac.com
Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

Just who is this Kayne West person? Should one have heard of him?

Frank McCusker
Frank McCusker
1 year ago

Only if you’re inferior

Nicky Samengo-Turner
Nicky Samengo-Turner
1 year ago

ahh yes … Major Sir Piers Kayne- West Bart., late Royal Hussars.. I’m sure that I shot with him at Holkham, and rode to Hounds with him on a mild Quorn Friday, and remember he rode a fine race, one year, in The Grand Military? Flew a Gazelle in bandit country back in the day?

Brett H
Brett H
1 year ago

Should one be curious just google it.

Nicholas Taylor
Nicholas Taylor
1 year ago

I’ve never heard of Kanye West so, obviously, instant online fame passes right over my head, or maybe I’m just too focused on the prosaic world of houses, streets, hills, trees, insects and stuff like that. Having said that, I have picked up the trend by writing in my private history about my obsessive irrational and socially dysfunctional behaviour when locked up in a boarding school in the middle of nowhere at the same age as Adrian Mole, whose teenage angst that I never had a chance to recognise has, I understand, come back into fashion. There’s probably a technical term for it now. Personal problems of young people, up to and including suicide, have been in the news, and statistically appear real, at least here where it still seems hard to tell the difference between reality and fantasy. I wonder whether the same applies now in Ukraine, or Ethiopia, or for that matter most of the world now or throughout history.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Oh that’s interesting – Unherd rejects comments related to the possible negative outcomes (work it out) of such erratic behaviours by people suffering mental health issues.

Ian Stewart
Ian Stewart
1 year ago

Can such people be helped?