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What Kanye West can teach us about bipolar disorder & Black mental health

Kanye West and Kim Kardashian have lived their lives – and now their break-up – in the public eye. Two therapists tell Into America what Black families should take from their story.

About this episode:

For the better part of a decade Kanye West and Kim Kardashian were one of the most influential couples in pop culture, living their private lives in the public eye. And now that the pair is officially split, they continue to grab headlines.

When Kim filed for divorce in February of last year, things at first seemed amicable – in August the couple recreated their wedding on stage at one of Kanye’s concerts, and they continue to share parenting responsibilities for their four children. But Kanye wasn’t ready to let go, and over the last year, his efforts to win Kim back have become increasingly aggressive. When she started dating SNL star Pete Davidson, Kanye’s public displays took on a more menacing tone: he made a music video featuring an animation of himself decapitating the comedian and claimed that he was using art to work through the trauma of his breakup.

Kanye has been very vocal about his struggles with mental health, sharing his diagnosis of Bipolar Disorder with the world. His current public displays look to many like the hallmark signs of a manic episode, where a person feels an unnaturally high energy level, excitement, and euphoria for a prolonged period. And many say his behavior toward Kim appears tobullying and harassing, bordering on abuse. (Although to be clear, the majority of people with mental health issues are not violent, and we want to be careful not to equate mental illness with violent or threatening behavior; and there is no evidence that Kanye has been violent.)

But the media conversations around Kim and Kanye, and around Kanye’s mental health, too often take on a tone of tabloid gossip, rather than tackling the tougher issues of mental health, support, and accountability that their story highlights.

This week on Into America, host Trymaine Lee speaks with two Black mental health professionals about Kanye’s struggles and mental health in the Black community. Dr. Maia Hoskin is a college professor, activist and writer who holds a Ph.D. in Counselor Education and Clinical Supervision. Last month she published a Medium article arguing that Black women shouldn’t be expected to “save” or “fix” Kanye’s mental health issues. Rwenshaun Miller is a therapist, speaker and award-winning social entrepreneur. His company Eustress, Inc. is focused on raising mental health awareness in the Black community.

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Find the transcript here.

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