There’s been a lot of talk surrounding rapper Kanye West’s mental health following his announcement he was running for president and an emotional appearance at a South Carolina rally. There have been a myriad of voices involved in these discussions about West’s mental state, but there are really only a couple of voices that actually matter. Here’s what Kanye West, along with his wife, Kim Kardashian, have said about the rapper’s mental health journey.
Following a series of outbursts, West was placed under an involuntary psychiatric hold in 2016. The rapper spoke about his experience with David Letterman, recalling, "They have this moment where they put you, they handcuff you, they drug you, they put you on the bed, and they separate you from everyone you know," he said. "That's something that I am so happy that I experienced myself so I can start by changing that moment." More recently, West spoke about the involuntary hold during his interview with Forbes this summer, telling the outlet, “You know I was out there, ended up in the hospital, people were calling me crazy. I'm not crazy.”
In an interview with DJ Big Boy, West admitted that he had been officially diagnosed and seemed very well adjusted to that fact. “I’m so blessed and so privileged because think about people that have mental issues that are not Kanye West,” the rapper said. “Think about someone who does exactly what I did at TMZ and they just do that at work. On Tuesday morning, they come in and they just lost their job. And they can’t go back and do that.” During that interview, West admitted to being diagnosed for the first time with a “mental condition” when he was 39-years-old.
A few months later, however, during a White House meeting with President Donald J. Trump, West insisted he had been misdiagnosed and was actually only suffering from sleep deprivation. "I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder,” the rapper said, then explained that he was then connected to a neuropsychologist who told West, “that I actually wasn’t bipolar, I had sleep deprivation, which could cause dementia 10 to 20 years from now where I wouldn’t even remember my son’s name.”
Kim Kardashian addressed this discrepancy during her Vogue interview, explaining that there had been conflicting assessments from the rapper’s doctors, and confirmed that West had “accepted the bipolar diagnosis.” Kardashian went on to say, “I think we’re in a pretty good place with it now,” adding, “It is an emotional process, for sure. Right now everything is really calm. But we can definitely feel episodes coming, and we know how to handle them.”
Kanye West’s appearance on David Letterman’s My Next Guest Needs No Introduction featured the rapper at his most open and candid when it comes to discussions about his mental health. During that interview, West went in depth about his experience with bipolar disorder. “I wouldn't be able to explain that as much just because, you know, I'm not a doctor,” West revealed after he was asked about what “mechanism” in his brain was “malfunctioning.” He continued, “I can just tell you what I'm feeling at the time, and I feel a heightened connection with the universe when I'm ramping up. It is a health issue. This — it's like a sprained brain, like having a sprained ankle.”
When West begins to “ramp up,” he explained, "You have this moment [where] you feel everyone wants to kill you. You pretty much don't trust anyone," adding, "This is my experience, other people have different experiences. Everyone now is an actor. Everything's a conspiracy. You feel the government is putting chips in your head. You feel you're being recorded. You feel all these things.” These sorts of thoughts are typically indicative of a manic state, though our use of “manic” is a very simplified description of a very complicated mental condition.
Whenever something that defies easy explanation happens to someone people admire, there tends to be an attempt to find someone to blame. Kim Kardashian has become a lightning rod for people trying to find someone, anyone, to blame for everything, including West’s controversial outbursts. The burden of managing another person’s mental illness is too much for anybody to manage, even if that person has a lot of resources. Kardashian admitted as much in an Instagram story she posted this morning. The reality star wrote, in part, that people with no experience dealing with another person's mental illness "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."
Last year, Kardashian spoke with Vogue and, according to the author of the article, seemed eager to discuss her husband’s mental health as well as the stigma she faced as his wife. “But I think some of the hurtful things that I read online, ‘What is she doing? She’s not stopping him.’ Like it’s my fault if he does or says something that they don’t agree with? That’s my husband,” adding “I share every opinion that I have and let him know when I think something’s wrong. Or if it comes to him being in the middle of a bipolar episode, I’ll do everything to be supportive and help to calm the situation.” It’s clearly hurtful for Kardashian to see online commenters blame her for West’s mental state, or imply that she’s not doing enough for her husband to keep him safe.
Since his diagnosis, West has commented multiple times about the effect that his bipolar disorder medication has on him, and even Kim Kardashian has commented on West’s use of medication. During an interview with David Letterman on the talk show host’s Netflix series My Next Guest Needs No Introduction, West gave his most in depth interview about his mental health, opening up in an attempt to relieve some of the stigma attached to mental illnesses.
Though he told Letterman that he was using alternative treatment methods to address his bipolar disorder under a doctor’s care, West was quick to admit that medication was a viable option for other people with the same diagnosis. West also opened up about what happens to him after he goes off his medication, “If you don't take medication every day to keep you at a certain state, you have a potential to ramp up and it can take you to a point where you can even end up in the hospital. And you start acting erratic, as TMZ would put it.”
Kardashian has also spoken about her husband’s reluctance to use medication for his bipolar disorder during her Vogue interview. She explained, “For him, being on medication is not really an option, because it just changes who he is.” A study published in 2018 reported that half of the bipolar disorder participants in that particular study committed “medication non-adherence,” which simply means that during a 12-month period, those participants stopped taking their medication.
Too often, Gossip Cop comes across tabloid stories referencing Kanye West’s mental state, which is often paired with unfounded predictions about the state of his marriage to Kim Kardashian. Some outlets have claimed that West’s “religious obsession” was supposedly harming his marriage to Kardashian. Other outlets have reported that West was forcing his wife to quit her reality show and go on the road with him, preaching the Gospel. These publications, and in fact most people in the world, have no clue what’s really going on with West’s mental condition and the sooner these bad actors stop spreading misinformation, the better for all involved.