(NNPA)—Kanye West is melting down. He didn’t perform to expectations at two concert dates, declaring, at one, that he would have voted for Donald Trump for President and generating boos for his statement. In a subsequent concert he performed just a couple of songs, and abruptly ended a performance that should have lasted at least an hour. A couple of days later, he was hospitalized in a “psychiatric hold.” Some say he is simply exhausted, sleep-deprived and stressed. Some say it is more. His mother, Dr. Donda West, died in November 2007. Nine years later, is he especially vulnerable to outbursts and erratic behavior on that anniversary? In any case, even as many of us have admired Kanye West as a boldly audacious entertainer, we are also concerned about his very public meltdown and its implications.
African American people don’t pay enough attention to the challenges that mental health issues face. We are more likely than Whites to experience mental health challenges, but far less likely than Whites to seek help. We minimize mental health challenges, laughing and calling those who are challenged crazy and cray-cray (I confess, I do this from time to time). We don’t respond to their very public cry for help. Yes, Kanye West was crying for help. His inappropriate public behavior could have been interpreted as an ask for someone to take him, hold him, comfort him, hear him. Instead, he had a challenging concert schedule, a schedule that would have brought him millions of dollars. Cancelling the schedule may have saved his health, but it has cost him millions of dollars. Imagine the pressure he must have felt; he might have thought, “Can I go on and save the day? Must I step aside and take a hit?”
Most African Americans who face mental health challenges face some of the same concerns Kanye West must have. If you share your mental anguish, you are cray-cray, the object of jokes and ridicule. If you hide it, you are eaten alive by an anguish that forces you to say “fine,” or “okay,” when people ask you how you are doing. Just like we tell people to take an annual physical, to feel their breasts for lumps, to get the prostate check, we need to encourage folks who are a bit erratic to check in with their doctors about their mental health.