It used to be that, to diagnose someone with a mental illness, you had to have some sort of medical degree. Now, all you need is an internet connection and a strong set of twitter fingers.
Kanye West's The Life Of Pablo album cycle has led to some very jarring twitter rants, most notably, a spat with his ex, Amber Rose. It's easy to fall in the trap of diagnosing Kanye in these moments as "manic", but we need to realize that it is not our place and it does more harm than good.
Kanye West seriously shows signs of Bipolar disorder. His twitter rants honestly remind me of manic episodes— leahs back yall (@undergroundmami) February 19, 2016
Kanye west probably has manic depression— Jovan (@JovanMaksimovic) February 16, 2016
Kanye West is a narcissist, yes. Kanye West is an egomaniac, yes. He's also having a breakdown/manic episode. Stop making fun of it.— Julia Alexander (@loudmouthjulia) February 16, 2016
We likely believe that we have an ability to recognize mental illness because of the way that mainstream culture presents these disorders. In film and television, mental illness is black and white, easy to spot, and treatable with some pills. The truth is that mental illness is nuanced, textured, and often hard to pin down.
Kanye hasn't spoken at length about any mental illness he may have, but since his mother died in 2007, we've seen a marked change in his behaviour. That being said, it does no one any favours to make diagnoses about his mental health without having a medical degree and a private appointment with Mr. West.
gif via giphy
We did the same thing with Amanda Bynes a few years ago. While she was clearly going through something she chose not to disclose at the time, people still took a strange delight in projecting their own theories about her mental state.
Eventually, she tweeted that she had been diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and manic depression, and that she had sought help for her conditions. But we can see how upset she was at the idea that her peers and fans were calling her "crazy" when she, herself, believed that everything was fine. In any situation where someone may think they have a mental illness, this negative validation can cause them to become agitated and filled with frustration.
Even Charlie Sheen who classified his own ordeal as "#winning" did not deserve for all of the twitter psychologists to present their unqualified opinions about his health.
To quote a tweet by @smallestwaffle, "mental illness is not a spectator sport". Sure, we have the right to be alarmed, concerned, and saddened by Kanye's behaviour. But if you're rushing to diagnose him with a mental illness that he hasn't spoken about, you're doing more harm than good.