Kanye West is just one of several celebrities to come forward about his mental health struggles. Just a few years ago, he made waves on the internet with his tweets about slavery being a choice amongst other “free thoughts”. The Chicago rapper also shared a dialogue with Charlamagne Tha God where he revealed his private struggles with mental health. He spoke about the alienating feeling of being misunderstood while struggling with his inner challenges. Some fans have chosen to distance themselves from West despite his own admissions to faults and struggles in the past. His longtime friend and fellow G.O.O.D. music affiliate, Common, came to his defense despite harsh public criticisms surrounding his choice of words.
“No matter what, Kanye is my brother. No matter what. That’s my brother, and I love him. And, I don’t agree with everything he says and everything he’s thinking. But, I don’t agree with a lot of things of people that I love. But that doesn’t mean I love them any differently,” he said.
In the past, Kanye has spoken candidly about the dangers of being obsessed with fame and achieving status. His maniacal quest is a feeling felt on varying levels within the Black male community. Black men are taught at early ages to conceal their emotions for fear of being labeled effeminate and weak. BlackDoctor sat down with several mental health professionals to find out how you can support Black men in their most private time of need. Dr. Varleisha Gibbs, Dr. Renata Weatherspoon and Nick Bryant of Houston Case Managers.
1. What should you watch for if you “suspect” your male friend has a mental illness
Dr. Gibbs: Mental illness is complex. There are various diagnoses that you may be unaware of such as post-traumatic stress disorder and clinical depression. Not all symptoms reflect that of hearing voices and symptoms one may align with schizophrenia. However, there are some basic signs that your male friend may be suffering from a mental illness.
First, do you notice severe changes in their eating and sleeping habits? Sleep disturbances and significant changes in one’s weight should not be taken lightly.
Does your friend appear to be withdrawn and lack interaction? This may be revealed in decreasing activities, outings, or events that as friends you would typically enjoy together.
Has your friend increased their alcohol intake or begun other forms of substance abuse?
Do you notice mood swings and changes in behavior? They may have irrational fears, risky behavior, and appear fidgety and lack concentration.
Dr. Weatherspoon: Signs and symptoms of mental illnesses include depression, social isolation, fluctuations in appetite and sleep (either in excess or deficit), irritability, a lack of motivation, a lack of interest in activities that were once considered pleasurable, inability to focus, and a deficit in self-care to name a few.
Irritability in men is a major symptom that is commonly ignored as it is deemed socially appropriate for men to be aggressive and display aggressive behavior. While women may express emotions by crying and sadness, men tend to conceal or hide their emotions making them appear angry. Many mental health symptoms can appear to be physical in nature causing men to ignore symptoms. Elevated heart rate, shortness of breath, chest tightening, and headache may appear to be physical in nature but can, in fact, be symptoms of anxiety.