On the first day of the summer Kanye West released his ninth studio album “Ye”, and the world got talking. Of course, there were discussions about the cover – a witty statement about bipolar disorder with a mountain landscape on the background. We discuss why Kanye West’s album cover is so important to talk about.
The phrase ‘I hate being bipolar. It’s awesome’ was not invented by Kanye West. If fact, it’s several years old. It took tumbler by storm back in 2012-2013, and later began to appear on T-shirts and other souvenirs. This is practically the slogan of people with bipolar disorder that is parodying inappropriate jokes about problems with mental health, which are often told by those who did not have such experience. It reflects the two phases of being bipolar – depression and mania. These phases replace each other switching a person from a negative perception of themselves and the world around to a positive, and even euphoric.
Talks about Kanye West’s mental health problems began back to November 2016, when the rapper was hospitalized in Los Angeles, right after he had asked the public to vote for Trump in the presidential election and compared himself with him. The official explanation of hospitalisation was depletion – West worked too much. In the manic stage of bipolar disorder people do actually tend to work hard until absolute exhaustion. The album “Ye” became an official opening about his struggles.
West, of course, is not the only musician who speaks openly about problems with mental health. In 2015 rapper Kendrick Lamar talked about his depression and suicidal thoughts. Kurt Cobain, Moby, Selena Gomez, Sinéad O’Connor, Lady Gaga, Kid Cudi, Adele and others also talked about their mental issues. Unfortunately, often the truth about mental health is revealed too late. For example, this was the case for the founder of Joy Division Ian Curtis, the creator of Pink Floyd Sid Barrett, Chester Bennington, and, most recently, Swedish DJ Avicii.
The main problem here is that the majority do not want to understand the problems with mental health that some people who work tirelessly in creative industries have, and do not take it seriously. Of course, from an outside perspective it seems that celebrities live on the top of Olympus: fame, money, travel, the opportunity to earn money by doing something they love, something that remains a hobby for most people. This only increases the pressure on celebrities; they are asked to do everything well – perform well, look good, say the right things and, of course, not to suffer from mental health issues, since they are so well settled in life. If these rules are not followed, a flurry of criticism follows.
Recognition of Kanye West’s bipolar disorder is an important occasion to reflect on one’s own mental health, the stigmatization of mental disorders, and at times the inhuman attitude of the public towards people with mental disorders. No, I’m not saying we should take seriously the line where West states that bipolar disorder is his superpower. Our task as a society is to create conditions in which every person, regardless of social status can openly admit that he/she is struggling, be understood and get help, instead of reproaches.
Text: Irina Gorskaia
Images: Billboard, Genius, Kanye West