You don’t need a degree in psychology to recognize that Kanye West is in the midst of a mental health crisis. Within the past several days, the Chicago rapper has attempted to discredit the work of Harriet Tubman, publicly accused his wife of having an affair with fellow recording artist Meek Mill, and told the world that he strongly considered divorcing his wife as well as aborting his oldest child, North West.
“Kanye is bipolar,” psychotherapist and “Married to Medicine: Los Angeles” star Dr. Imani Walker pointed out on Twitter. “This is what mania looks like. It can be confusing and scary sometimes.”
As the public continues to gawk and the media senselessly churns out headline after headline in regard to West’s apparent meltdown, one can only imagine what the experience has been in his household because when you have a spouse or close loved one who suffers from a mental illness, the entire household experiences the highs and lows of that illness as well. Worse, these terrible conditions often leave close relatives of the mentally ill exposed and vulnerable in ways you couldn’t even imagine.
Only Wednesday did West’s wife, Kim Kardashian West, break her silence on his recent crisis, after what has likely been an extremely long and emotionally draining past couple of weeks.
“As many of you know, Kanye has bi-polar disorder. Anyone who has this or has a loved one in their life who does knows how incredibly complicated and painful it is to understand,’ the reality star explained in her Instagram stories. “I’ve never spoken publicly about how this has affected us at home because I am very protective of our children and Kanye’s right to privacy when it comes to his health. But today, I feel like I should comment on it because of the stigma and misconceptions about mental health.”
She went on:
“I understand Kanye is subject to criticism because he is a public figure and his actions at times can cause strong opinions and emotions,” she continued. “He is a brilliant but complicated person who on top of the pressures of being an artist and a black man, who experienced the painful loss of his mother and has to deal with the pressure and isolation that is heightened by his bi-polar disorder. Those who are close with Kanye know his heart and understand his words some times do not align with his intentions.”
Kim and her children are in a predicament that many families know all too well, but one that is rarely discussed publicly. Navigating a spouse’s mental health crisis can be incredibly frightening and emotionally taxing.
According to KVC Health Systems, a mental health crisis is defined as “any situation in which a person’s actions, feelings, and behaviors can lead to them hurting themselves or others, and/or put them at risk of being unable to care for themselves or function in the community in a healthy manner.”
So while we’re on the subject, we thought it might be helpful to highlight some coping strategies for surviving a spouse’s mental health crisis:
“It is important for you to talk to someone you trust and/or a mental health professional to discuss how it has impacted the health of your marriage,” therapist and LCSW Marline Francois-Madden told MadameNoire. “Aa a spouse, you should find ways to create healthy self-care habits during this time and find hobbies that you can enjoy alone.”
Do not argue
If your loved one is experiencing psychosis or delusions, do not attempt to argue or reason with them. “It’s common for family members to attempt to reason with their loved one, to talk the loved one “out” of their paranoia,” explained Kim Runkle for the National Alliance of Mental Illness. “Typically, the more one tries to talk a delusional person out of his or her delusions, the more he or she will cling to them.”
Validate and redirect
If there is paranoia or fear that surfaces during the episode, it could be helpful to validate the fear, but redirect. “Depending on how severe the psychotic symptoms are, one approach that may be effective is to validate the fear associated with the delusion while calmly explaining you see the situation differently,” Runkle adds.
Try not to take their words personally
As we have witnessed with Kanye, a person suffering from delusions may say some extremely hurtful things to and about the people they love. While their words can feel like a knife to the heart at times, it can be helpful to remind yourself that this is the illness speaking, not your loved one.
“Paranoia and psychosis can lead to mistrust and suspicion,” shared Dr. Melissa Welby in a blog. “All relationships can be called into question and be affected by delusions.”
Empathize and avoid placing blame
“As a spouse to someone with a mental illness, it is important to educate yourself on their mental illness and diagnosis and be empathetic towards them when they are in distress,” Francois-Madden adds.
Treat the person with respect. Empathize with how the person feels about their beliefs and experiences, without stating judgments about
the content of those beliefs and experiences, the University of California, San Fransisco Department of Psychiatry and Behavioral Sciences advises in their Psychosis First Aid Guide for Loved Ones. “Avoid confronting the person and do not criticize or blame them. Understand the symptoms for what they are and try not to take them personally. Do not use sarcasm and avoid using patronizing statements.”
Encourage them to seek help
“The person may refuse to seek help even if they realize they are unwell. Their confusion and fear about what is
happening to them may lead them to deny that anything is wrong,” the first aid guide goes on. “In this case, encourage them to talk to someone they trust. It is also possible that a person may refuse to seek help because they lack insight that they are unwell. They might actively resist your attempts to encourage them to seek help.” In most cases, you can’t force a person to get help. It is their right to refuse treatment unless they have demonstrated signs that suggest they are a danger to themselves or others.
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