Here’s Why Those Kanye West Jokes Are So Harmful

Jennifer Gerson Uffalussy
Contributing Writer
Yahoo Beauty
 Kanye West
Kanye West (Photo: Dominique Charriau/WireImage)

Musician, performer, producer, designer (and, of course, husband of Kim Kardashian and father to North and Saint West) Kanye West was hospitalized on Monday, Nov. 21, just after the multi-hyphen-mogul canceled the remainder of his “Saint Pablo” tour earlier that day.

West’s hospitalization comes after some difficult, and concerning, events and statements by the performer. Sources told the press that West felt like he was experiencing a “spiritual attack,” and that November is always hard for him because it’s the month when his mother died. Donda West, an English professor as well as her son’s manager, died in November 2007 from heart disease after plastic surgery.

This week alone, West exhibited some unusual behavior while on tour for his newest album, The Life of Pablo. On Thursday, Nov. 17, he told concertgoers in San Jose, Calif., that he did not vote in this year’s presidential election, but if he had, he would have voted for Donald Trump. West allegedly then continued to rant about Trump and his own intended campaign for the presidency in 2020 before performing the track “Heartless.” Then, on Saturday night, Nov. 19, West once again went on an extended rant at his show in Sacramento, Calif., this time targeting husband-and-wife music icons Beyoncé and Jay Z (his supposed good friends). West arrived late for both shows and ended the Sacramento concert after performing for only 30 minutes.

Shortly after the brief Sacramento show, West flooded his Instagram account with blurry images of vintage Maison Margiela lookbooks, drawing a host of comments from confused fans.

In addition, last month, Kim Kardashian was robbed at gunpoint, after being gagged and bound at the couple’s apartment in Paris, and was met with an onslaught of disdain and negative comments on social media after surviving the ordeal.

But just as Kim is more than deserving of empathy after dealing with trauma, so is her husband Kanye entitled to concern, and not mocking, in the face of what is purported to be a mental health struggle.

“Empathy, folks. Empathy,” Kat Kinsman, author of Hi, Anxiety and a prolific writer and editor on topics related to food and mental health, tells Yahoo Beauty how to proceed when it comes to discussing West’s emotional issues.

Kinsman continues, “Kanye tries his damnedest to project an outrageous, maddening, fascinating persona, and he is a fiercely talented performer. But then there’s Kanye, the actual man, the human in pain. When someone glitters that brightly, it’s perhaps understandable that it’s hard to see. But would you crack jokes if someone had lupus or MS? No? Don’t do it now.”

Need some modeling on what compassionate and honest support of those struggling with depression and anxiety looks like? Look no further than Selena Gomez’s speech at the American Music Awards on Nov. 20 — and the incredible outpouring of support she received from fans for her compelling description of her own struggle with mental health issues as a result of her lupus.

As clinical psychologist Jocelyn Charnas told Yahoo Beauty, the support being shown to Gomez is indicative of the “epidemic fueled by social media that paints a picture of perfection, that you must be perfect.” Gomez’s honesty, and her fans support of it, is a clear repudiation of “perfection” that does not allow for personal struggle.

And, indeed, Charnas added, the best thing to do if you are struggling is to reach out for help — just as Gomez did, and just as West is doing now.

When we mock or attempt to shame someone publicly struggling with a mental health challenge, everyone loses: The cycle of shame and stigma are reinforced and perpetuated, and many more barriers are placed in the journey toward health — and help.

Kinsman notes that West’s current situation can also serve as an excellent example of how to show compassion for loved ones and friends who are also struggling with their mental health. She explains that by expressing empathy toward West now, you might help others you know by showing them that they have your support too.

“You just give them a glimpse into how you’d treat them if they were in crisis … The fear of your judgment might keep them from getting the help they need,” Kinsman says. “Love them like Kanye loves Kanye, and we’ll all be better off.”

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