What Does “Getting Help” Look Like For Kanye?
Photos show West at a construction site for some unspecified reason, suggest that the rapper, 44, has not checked himself into a hospital or other facility to deal with recent troubling behaviour, possibly related to his bipolar disorder. Many assume that West has been in throes of a manic episode and was going to rehab, based on a report last week that he had told his ex-wife, Kim Kardashian, that he was going “away somewhere to get better.”
“For the sake of the kids, Kanye has told Kim he’s not making any public appearances or inflammatory social media statements, and he will go away somewhere to get better,” a source close to the Kardashian family said. Kanye “wants to get help,” the source said.
Meanwhile, it was announced that The Weeknd and Swedish House Mafia were the performers taking over West’s slot at Coachella.
What does “go away,” “get help” and “get better” mean for the mercurial rapper, fashion designer and billionaire? As one of the highest-profile celebrities who publicly deals with a mental illness, West has been vocal about his refusal to go to therapy and take psychotropic medication, wrote journalist and psychotherapist Tanay Hudson.
It wasn’t clear whether West planned to go to a treatment facility.He stays in Los Angeles to be close with his and Kardashian’s four young children. West’s reported decision to “get help” came after weeks of escalating efforts. Antagonizing, shaming and harassing Kim and cyberbullying her boyfriend, Pete Davidson, through statements and song.
It’s not new for West to “go away.” He has retreated before from the public eye. After facing backlash for behaviour that became increasingly unhinged and disturbing.
In a well-known instance in December 2016, he checked into the UCLA Medical Center. Reported to be “exhaustion” and a “psychiatric emergency.” Suddenly cancelling remaining concerts in his “Saint Pablo” tour. After delivering a long, meaningless speech onstage in Sacramento instead of performing many songs. During the speech, he criticized Jay-Z, Beyoncé and other friends and associates in the music industry. Launching his first public praise of then-President-elect Donald Trump.
A month later, West emerged from that hospitalization as loud and provocative as ever. Starting with him making a show of visiting Trump in Manhattan. As the polarizing new president was putting together his administration before assuming power in January 2017.
West has spoken about experiencing manic episodes, often tweeting and performing through them. He has famously referred to his bipolar disorder as a “superpower” that allows him to be creative and productive. He’s also talked to David Letterman about the stigma he’s faced in having a mental illness. Describing “feelings of paranoia and delusions, as well as being handcuffed, drugged, and hospitalized,” The Cut reported.
It’s also “been evident” that he hasn’t been receiving “any help due to his erratic and unhinged behavior,” Hudson wrote.
She said it appears that West has been trying to manage his illness on his own. His recent actions are the result of a manic episode. “Where a person experiences grandiose thoughts, poor judgement, risky and impulsive behaviours and paranoia.”
Hudson noted that, in just the past two years, West has treated his followers and everyone else to manic scenes. Him urinating on his Grammy, saying slavery was a choice, slamming Harriett Tubman and unsuccessfully running for president. He also continued to voice support for Trump and may have allowed his campaign to be unethically used to undermine Joe Biden’s campaign in certain states. He professionally embraced accused serial abuser Marilyn Manson and publicly embarrassed Kardashian and his 8-year-old daughter North. By revealing that he and his ex-wife considered an abortion when they learned she was pregnant.
West seemed at first to take his divorce from Kardashian fairly well. The divorce, announced in February 2021, appeared to be amicable. With reports that the estranged spouses were dedicated to co-parenting their four young children.
That veil of amiability fell apart when the world and presumably West, learned in late 2021 that Kardashian was dating “Saturday Night Live” star Davidson. On Instagram, West publicly pleaded with her to get back together. But also bashed her parenting skills, claimed he was being kept out of his children’s lives, threatened Pete Davidson. Attacking anyone, including Billie Eilish, whom he perceived as condemning his behaviour.
West was suspended from Instagram after he used racial slurs against Trevor Noah. The “The Daily Show” host commented on West’s harassment. Noah and others compared West’s attacks on his ex-wife to abusive men who become controlling and violent when their partners leave. No one has ever accused West of domestic violence. Noah and others expressed concerns that he had crossed a line that was painfully familiar to survivors of domestic violence.
“What she’s going through is terrifying to watch, and it shines a spotlight on what so many women go through when they choose to leave.” Noah said.
West responded by posting a photo of the South African comedian. With the racial slur inserted into the lyrics of the African-American spiritual “Kumbayah.”
West learned that his planned performance at the 64th annual Grammys ceremony was being cut from the show. Organizers told West’s team that they didn’t want him to perform, citing his erratic and troubling public behavior
West, who was nominated for five awards and won two. Was still welcome to attend Sunday night’s ceremony, but did not appear.
West’s time out of the spotlight would include “professional treatment.” Not specifying what that would involve.
In an essay for The Cut, writer Erica Schwiegershausen, who has bipolar disorder, said it’s common for people with this condition to resist taking medication. “ They don’t believe they need it, or because the highs of mania are seductive.” There also can be long-term physical side effects. Especially when people have to stay on the medication the rest of their lives.
While many find medication to be “lifesaving,” others say it affects their ability to feel like themselves. Kardashian explained West’s resistance to medication in a 2019 Vogue interview, saying: “Being on medication is not really an option (for Kanye), because it just changes who he is.”
The reality TV shapewear mogul continued to defend her husband in 2020. Even after he made jarring comments about her and their daughter during his 2020 presidential run. She pleaded for better public understanding of his illness.
“As many of you know, Kanye has bipolar disorder,” Kardashian said in a rare public statement. “Anyone who has this or has a loved one in their life who does, knows how incredibly complicated and painful it is to understand.” Calling her husband a “brilliant but complicated person,” she added: “Those who are close to Kanye know his heart and understand his words sometimes do not align with his intentions.”
Kardashian’s statement brought up realities that people with mental illness and their loved ones know all too well. Bipolar disorder and other conditions are chronic. Potentially debilitating and don’t easily go away, even with a trip to the hospital and medication.
As Schwiegershausen wrote, medication is “just one tool for treating a complicated illness. Where episodes are often triggered by and intertwined with stress and trauma.”
The hope among people with mental illness is that they can manage their symptoms. Usually through trial and error. With the help of a combination of medication, therapy and adopting regular, healthy lifestyle habits.
Hudson emphasized that West needs professional help, instead of continuing to attempt to manage the symptoms on his own. “As time goes on, his symptoms seem to worsen,” Hudson wrote. “The only way he can be stabilized is getting help from a psychiatrist and psychotherapist and adhering to a medication regimen.”