A break from the overwhelming silence on an issue that many blacks consider taboo
By Frederick H. Lowe
Rapper Kanye West is known for saying things some blacks consider pretty crazy, like supporting President Trump, a racist villain to many African Amerians, and saying slavery by African Americans was a choice.
West also said on national TV during Hurricane Katrina in which blacks were drowning in New Orleans without any or much aid from the federal government that President George W. Bush didn’t care about black people. Many thought what West said was crazy, but considering the circumstances shown on television every night, many observers agreed with him.
Now, he admits he’s suffering from bi-polar disorder, a mood disorder, formerly referred to as manic-depressive disorder, characterized by dramatic shifts in mood, energy, unpredictable behavior, and challenges in carrying out day-to-day tasks, according to the National Institute of Mental Health.
West revealed his illness in one line of his newly released album “Ye.” In the cover art, West wrote: “I hate being Bi-polar/it’s awesome.” West labeled his Bi-polar disorder, which he also calls a “mental condition” his “superpower.”
He disclosed on the podcast Big Boy’s Neigborhood that he was diagnosed when he was 39, but he did not reveal who diagnosed him. He is now 40.
Bi-polar disorder affects 6 million people or about 2.8 percent of the U.S. population, but data concerning African Americans is almost nonexistent. There are four types of bi-polar disorder and all cause severe mood swings if not treated.
Most blacks suffering from bi-polar disorder are undiagnosed and untreated because of a variety of factors, including limited access to mental health care, a mistrust of health professionals, based in part on an awareness of the mistreatment and tragic consequences suffered by blacks who participated in medical research projects like those conducted by the Tuskegee syphilis study.
In addition, there are cultural barriers between physicians and their black patients, a preference for relying on family and religious community, rather than mental health professionals, during times of emotional distress.
Finally, there are socioeconomic factors, which can limit access to medical and mental health care. About 25 percent of African Americans do not have health insurance.
Some of the city’s black aldermen voted to close the clinics.
Unlike many blacks who are ashamed to admit they suffer from a mental illness, West is willing to a limited extent to talk about his and he could over time influence others to talk about their problems and seek help.
He said during an interview on Big Boy that the album gives him a platform to change people’s perceptions about mental illness.