opinion

Two celebrities are in crisis. One is running for president. The other can't leave the house.

Britney Spears is the most protected pop star in history.

Following her mental health crisis in 2007, Spears was placed under a conservatorship. For more than 12 years, the 38-year-old has been unable to drive, get married, have kids, spend money, see how her money is being spent, have any control over her career, go shopping, go for a walk, use her phone unmonitored or speak in interviews without her father's permission.

While she hires lawyers in an attempt to retrieve any sense of agency over her own life, a man named Kanye West is running for President

In 2016, the rapper and fashion designer experienced a mental health crisis which resulted in hospitalisation. West was reportedly paranoid, depressed, and in a state of "temporary psychosis". In a 2019 interview with David Letterman, West said he had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and his wife, Kim Kardashian-West, has since said they can "definitely feel episodes coming, and we know how to handle them". West does not take medication because he feels it "stifles [his] creativity". 

And then, earlier this month, came that Forbes interview. According to the publication, the 43-year-old "rambled" for four hours, confirming he's running for president in 2020 under the banner 'The Birthday Party', "because when we win, it’s everybody’s birthday".

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One of the most telling features of the interview was when West said: "So when they say the way we’re going to fix COVID is with a vaccine, I’m extremely cautious. That’s the mark of the beast. They want to put chips inside of us, they want to do all kinds of things, to make it where we can’t cross the gates of heaven."

Kanye West talks about his mental health with David Letterman. Post continues below. 


Video via


West is entitled to believe what he likes about vaccines. But it's worth reflecting on his own insights to Letterman just last year, when he said that during manic periods he suffers from racing thoughts, irritability, sleep loss, paranoia or psychosis. He added: "When you're in this state, you're hyper-paranoid about everything... Everything's a conspiracy. You feel the government is putting chips in your head. You feel you're being recorded. You feel all these things." 

By his own admission, it seems fair to assume that West is currently unwell. 

Then came his first ever presidential rally over the weekend. He spoke for more than an hour, and at times his speech was incoherent. He had no microphone. He wore a bullet-proof vest, yelled, cried, argued with people, reprimanded the audience for clapping and had 2020 shaved into the back of his head.

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Let's not forget that when Britney took clippers to her head in 2007 it wasn't long before she spent a month in rehab. 

After telling the crowd that his own father had wanted to "abort" him, he began crying and announced, "I almost killed my daughter". 

He then stood on the world stage and divulged that he had wanted to terminate Kardashian-West's pregnancy with North, but a "message from God" changed his mind.

"Even if my wife were to divorce me after this speech, she brought North into this world, when I did not want to. She stood up, and she protected that child."

West's speech exhibited a lack of concern for both his wife and his now seven-year-old daughter. The repercussions of his words will extend far beyond a few gasps among a crowd in Charlestown, South Carolina. He appears unable to determine what is and isn't appropriate to share, and this poor decision making, talkativeness, distractibility and exaggerated self-confidence are all behaviours consistent with mania. 

Is there an action more indicative of risk-taking, hyperactivity, impulsivity and a heightened sense of importance than running for President of the United States? 

We cannot, of course, from the other side of a screen, diagnose West with anything. We can, however, listen to what he tells us about his own mental health. Leaks are seeping through the home of Kardashian-West, and it looks increasingly likely that his wife is concerned for his wellbeing. To ignore the clear signs that Kanye West is not a man in full health is a case of the Emperor's new clothes. The Emperor is standing on stage naked right now and the sooner we all acknowledge what we can all so clearly see, the better. 

It is an interesting contrast, that a man behaving like Kanye is able to hold a presidential rally, while a woman behaving like Britney can't buy herself a coffee from Starbucks. 

Does it say something about how we interpret women's mental health as opposed to men's? Are we more uncomfortable infatalising, patronising and potentially restraining men? Do we take longer to intervene when a man has a mental health crisis?

We discussed Kanye West's presidential campaign on Mamamia Out Loud. Post continues below.

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The platform given to Kanye, and the freedom prohibited from Britney are both less than ideal. These cultural phenomenons taking place at the same time likely indicate that we, as a culture, still have absolutely no idea what we're meant to do in regards to mental health intervention. These are the two extremes. Neither appear to be faring well for the individual at the centre. 

On Tuesday afternoon AEST, West published a number of tweets to his 30 million followers. Broadly, they are difficult to follow. One tweet suggests that the film Get Out, where a black man is trapped by a white family, is about him. Another indicates that the Kardashian family have attempted to bring a doctor to him to "lock [him] up". 

West's health looks to be deteriorating, and the question resounding all over the world is: Why won't somebody do something? 

Someone must've assisted him in organising the South Carolina rally. He would have drivers. Minders. Managers. Assistants. Friends. Family. And yet, other than the Kardashians, his entourage appear to be making things worse. 

There are no clear answers about the best course of action. A broader conversation needs to be had about how to best look after each other, and what it might look like to protect a person from themselves. What we can control is how we respond to the onslaught of Kanye West headlines that continue to pick up speed. The answer to that is comparatively simple. 

Empathy. Compassion. Sensitivity.

There is a certain paradox in seeing Kanye West and Britney Spears - two of the most famous people in the world - so vulnerable. We imagine that with fame and money and power, your humanness gets left behind. 

Evidently, it doesn't.

Luckily for us, our suffering isn't broadcast to millions of people. No one profits off it. 

Just as we are asking why Britney is being denied certain rights, and in some instances been denied a platform, it's time to ask why Kanye is being given one.  

Because this story is much, much bigger than the two individuals at the centre of it.

Feature Image: Instagram.

If you think you may be experiencing depression or another mental health problem, please contact your general practitioner. If you're based in Australia, please contact Lifeline 13 11 14 for support or beyondblue 1300 22 4636.

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