Many of rapper Kanye West’s critics have dismissed him with variations of the same theme: He’s crazy.
Prominent figures, including both late-night comics and news anchors such as CNN’s Don Lemon (pictured above right) did so Thursday in the wake of West’s meeting with President Donald Trump in the Oval Office.
Writing off West’s comments by pointing to his well-publicized struggles with bipolar disorder is an easy way to score points.
But an expert on mental health warned Friday night on Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” that it is dangerous.
“Reducing somebody’s conversation to illegitimacy by saying they’re mentally ill is in the same category as a stigma related to racism, sexism, homophobia,” said Patrick Corrigan, a psychology professor at the Illinois Institute of Technology and the author of a dozen books.
“It’s saying that your message doesn’t count because once upon a time you had experience with bipolar disorder or some other illness.”
During the televised sit-down, West (above left) spoke on a number of topics — slavery, the impact of welfare on families, fatherlessness, law enforcement, and prison reform, to name a few. At one point, he even showed Trump a picture of a hydrogen plane that he said the president should be using.
Some commentators have zeroed in on West’s lack of academic expertise on these issues in arguing that it was inappropriate for the president to be taking policy advice from him.
West’s stream-of-consciousness presentation, though, made it easier for some critics to suggest that West is insane and should not be taken seriously. The conversation is one more typically held between people “wearing hospital bracelets,” as ABC’s Jimmy Kimmel put it.
But the obstacles faced by people who struggle with mental illness are “not trivial,” Corrigan said.
“People labeled with mental illness aren’t able to get jobs, live independently, get good health care,” he said. “And it’s all because messages like this perpetuate them as being different, worse than we are.”
“Anytime you throw in the word ‘crazy,’ whether it comes from the Left or comes from the Right, it undermines the opportunities of people who struggle with mental illness.”
Corrigan urged people to take more care of their language.
“Anytime you throw in the word ‘crazy,’ whether it comes from the Left or comes from the Right, it undermines the opportunities of people who struggle with mental illness,” he said. “And, by the way, that’s a lot of people.”
As many as one in five Americans have a serious mental illness, Corrigan said. He added that the reception West has received in the national media may deter others from seeking treatment.
“The stigma fundamentally comes from the label … They’re gonna avoid those kind of places [mental health facilities] so they don’t get those labels,” he said. “And they’re not gonna get the kind of treatment you were just talking about, that we know really will work.”