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Lessons Learned From Kanye West Mental Health Crisis

The world of psychotherapy is profoundly personal and confidential; some may even say

secretive. All we bear witness to as clinicians will never leave that sacred space between the

patient (or client) and psychoanalyst (or therapist), nor will it ever be uttered to another person.

Because the specifics of a person's treatment never see the light of day, it's easy to stigmatize

or minimize psychotherapy. Like plastic surgery, we mostly hear about situations that go

wrong. As Psychotherapists, we never disclose the CEOs, Models, Actors, Musical Artists, Pro Athletes, and Performers we treat. We can only sit and cheer with everyone else when they are at their best. We don't get the credit, nor do we want it, but, unfortunately, most of you will

never realize your favorite public figure has no issue getting mental health support.

In many instances, therapists are the wind beneath their client's wings - invisible. The public

will see someone who seems well-balanced, successful, maintains healthy relationships, is

creative and productive, and is easy to be around. It's very likely the person you admire,

whether they admit it or not, is in some form of psychotherapy, psychoanalysis, or counseling.

So we must use Kanye West as an educational moment. The end result shows there are little or

no mental health interventions in this case. Had there been adequate mental health

interventions, this current situation which has negatively impacted his financial success (to the

tune of $1.5 billion), would not have occurred.

As clinicians and mental health experts, we must use our voices to inform and empower

people. Mental illness may start as an individual problem, but it isn't. Relationships,

productivity, community, and, ultimately, society are affected by untreated mental illness - so

we must be our brother's keeper.

Why? Because when someone is in the throes of a mental health crisis - which Kanye is - they

are not always able to make decisions that are in their best interest because their judgment is

compromised. So it's up to us, as co-workers, clergy, friends, and family, to educate ourselves

on mental illness to help us support those around us who are struggling. At the time of this

article, 1 in 5 people struggle with mental illness. Yes, someone you know is suffering silently!

Psychoeducation is essential in our community because too many people suffer needlessly

due to little or no access to quality mental health services and information. Accurate

information is often replaced by misinformation and outdated attitudes. This negative attitude

towards mental health is especially true in our immigrant, black, and brown communities—the

ENRICH community.

Let's Learn From Kanye

The Kanye West situation is a vehicle for us to teach and reach those struggling with untreated

mental illness. We can discuss this publicly because it has been widely documented (including

by him) that he struggles with Bipolar Disorder.

The Intentions Behind This Article

Before proceeding, let us be clear this is not intended to address, positively or negatively, his

reported racist, prejudiced, anti-Semitic, culturally insensitive comments. This is not diagnostic

since I have never treated him, but it is about the impact of untreated mental illness, no matter

your socioeconomic situation.

Impediments To Care

Although finances can impede many, the attitude towards mental illness is often the most

significant challenge. Kanye's situation can highlight this fact, Kanye has the financial means.

Many of my clients had the financial means, even when they said they didn't. I have had clients

decide to invest in everything other than their mental health; they've invested in nightly eating

out, Caribbean vacations, new car purchases, and the like, then claim they cannot afford to

continue their treatment. They do not see their mental well-being as a non-negotiable, like they

would a tangible illness, such as treating an ulcer.

Untreated Mental Illness May be Dormant, But it Will Not Disappear.

Mental illness will not magically go away. Feeling better for a couple weeks does not mean you

are okay. You may be creative, productive, and highly successful, but mental illness will always

threaten your emotional, personal, interpersonal, and financial stability. Most mental illnesses

are on a continuum, fluctuating in severity. It may seem to disappear, but it doesn't. Don't be


The Impact of Untreated Mental Illness

In Kanye's situation, we have witnessed the impact of his reportedly untreated mental illness.

He has lost standing with many of his creative partners, offended legions of his fans, hurt entire

communities, and placed others in danger. And we have not yet touched on the impact on his

family, children...or himself. Who in their right mind would make conscious decisions and

choices that would - at the snap of a finger - eradicate $1.5 billion of their $1.9 billion net

worth?! And then refuse to even attempt to correct those decisions?

As a society, we cannot continue to ignore mental illness, it may be the individual's issue, but it

can quickly become a familial and social problem. We have seen the impact of comments on

the Floyd family, the Jewish community, the Black community, and countless others we may

not know about.

Spirituality and Mental Illness

Though one's spirituality can be a great support and a compliment to professional treatment,

the reality is prayer on its own cannot and will not address mental illness.

If you struggle with mental illness, it must be treated by trained professionals. Sorry, but your

clergy is not trained.

The Takeaways-

• Someone can be successful, popular, and creative and still struggle with mental illness. It has

nothing to do with intelligence.

• If left untreated, mental illness can create unnecessary turmoil in your life.

• Sometimes, risking the anger and annoyance of those we love, we must encourage them

with empathy and compassion to get help.

• Mental illness treatment is not in competition with your religious and spiritual beliefs. It just

can't replace it.

• Mental illness in itself is not the problem. It's whether or not we decide to treat or ignore it

and then give it power.

• Someone can struggle with mental illness and be productive and financially successful in

their professional life.

• Mental illness often takes many forms. Do not make assumptions. Get professional help.

• The best investment you can make is not in the newest technology or exotic vacations. It's in

your mental health. Your mental health and wellness are the foundation on which everything

is built. I have had clients go on exotic vacations only to cut those vacations short because of

a mental health crisis!

• Remember your mental health and emotional wellness is at the foundation of everything you



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