Thank you for this!!

You hit the nail on the head.

I have had a friend since High School who was diagnosed with bipolar in the 80's. She's been more or less stable since then, with a few exceptions.

Unfortunately, she got a new therapist who concluded that she had been misdiagnosed and took her off her meds.

She then pretty much blew up life. She has cut off all of her friends, thinking we are plotting against her. She has cut off her entire family, except for her 20 year old daughter. She sold her house and is living in a shack somewhere along the pacific crest trail now. I really hope it works out for her.

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Dec 5, 2022Liked by Jesse Singal

I don't hold Ye's antisemitism against him because he is obviously unwell. I said and did a lot of horrible things when I was psychotic. And yes, the most racist thing I ever saw was in a mental hospital, when a woman started shouting the n-word at a black guy over and over for no reason.

The thing I would fault Ye for is going off his meds (if that's what he did. I haven't read much about it).

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 6, 2022

Kanye is clinically manic. They could (and, oh, one day may) show footage of his Alex Jones appearance to medical students when they’re learning about bipolar disorder and manic psychoses. Social workers, EMTs and cops might benefit as well.

His ranting about Jews is a classic paranoiac symptom. Though, thankful, one less prevalent in the 21st century.

Most of us use words like “paranoid” and “psychotic” colloquially. Well, this is the real deal. Kanye can seem oddly cheerful and everyday he’s somewhere new, doing something batshit. That’s mania. He’s a literal maniac. (Understandably we don’t use “maniac” in that literal sense much these days.)

Tragically, people in this state die at a high rate. Often from suicide. Even people whose bipolar disorder is less dramatic (hypomania, bipolar II) kill themselves at an exponentially greater rate than the general population. You can Google the incredible numbers related to bipolar disorder and suicide. Sufferers also manage to get themselves killed in other ways. Then there’s the matter of crimes or simply impulsive behavior that hurts others.

I’m Jewish and my ratio of dread & indignation to magnitude & persistence of antisemitic expression has seldom, if ever, presented more of a contrast. The little anger I feel is almost entirely reserved for those allowing this to happen, the exploiters and enablers. Though Kanye does bear responsibility for going off his meds.

The best case scenario is probably Kanye spends the rest of his life taking prescription drugs with unpleasant side effects and is sincerely repentant.

Right now, though, we could be having one of those “valuable learning experience”s people loved taking about a decade ago. This is untreated bipolar disorder. The statistical chances of this going from ugly, titillating farce to real harm or violence (in their pre-woke literal sense) are high.

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Mental illness is HELL. And it hijacks the minds and behaviors of some of the best people I have ever known. It causes loving mothers to abandon their children and kind people to become physically and verbally aggressive.

This is one of the reasons I support mandating residential care - permanent if necessary - for those suffering from delusions and hallucinations (I believe many if not most chronically homeless "addicts" are self medicating for severe mental illness).

There is nothing "respectful" about allowing mentally ill people to rot on the streets like rats or pigeons.

These people are no more "themselves" than a person with Alzheimer's is "themselves". And they are no more capable of caring for themselves unsupervised.

There is nothing funny or entertaining about watching mentally ill people self destruct.

Mr. West should be forced into residential treatment and medicated to bring him out of his psychosis.

Sound cruel? More cruel than using him as an object of mockery and contempt and allowing him to destroy everything he worked for while in his right mind?


Anyone who has seen the ravaging of severe mental illness on the lives and minds of those they love would never minimize the horror of mental illness.

The psychotically mentally ill are no more responsible for their behavior than those who are suffering from Alzheimers. Let's protect them from their illness, not mock them for it.

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Kanye’s recent problems and reading this piece brought back a really awful feeling I sometimes got during from my stats as an patient in hospital mental health units and in therapy groups: the feeling of being completely helpless to help someone in a severe mental health crisis.

There were people with problems like awful living situations, no family or friend support, problems that completely limited their ability to function, and people who’d made ruinous decisions during manic episodes. There was absolutely nothing I could do or say that would fix their problems and help them get back to normal. I still think about the woman who was going to be homeless when she got out, the guy who was there after a suicide attempt and seemed so hopeless that I was terrified was going to kill himself when he got out, the lady who’d destroyed a relationship with her husband and kids in the span of a manic episode, and the big tough looking guy who broke down sobbing during a group session. I hope they’re doing ok.

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

I have such a complicated relationship with Ye's whole narrative. As someone with bipolar myself, and who works with severely mentally ill people, I have no doubt that Ye's mental illness is contributing to if not driving his bigoted statements. Sadly and for whatever reason, antisemitic conspiracy theories are absolute catnip to the paranoid, distressed brain. I definitely felt the pull towards a certain lizard person conspiracy when I was at my most manic in the past; the idea that you're a lone crusader who knows The Truth and is persecuted by enemies plays right into what the delusional brain wants to believe.

But also, Ye's been an awful person entirely independently of his mental health for years, and I do have some grim satisfaction at the idea that he'll finally stop being adulated. It just baffles me that people consider his posting inflammatory bigotry online to be an immediately cancelable sin while turning a blind eye to his treatment of women while he's been purportedly lucid. Remember when he released a music video with simulated nude bodies of people in bed with him, including his ex-girlfriend, who he'd blasted in the lyrics of his earlier album, and a public figure he was in the middle of a high-profile beef with? Remember how messed up that was? Remember how he's basically stalking his ex-wife right now and has made threats to her safety and the safety of other people in her life?

It makes me feel some kind of way, not a good way, that what people most want to crucify Ye for is the words he says and images he posts when he's at his least culpable, as opposed to the threats he makes towards women when his accountability is less in question.

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Not to take a universal-theory approach--I dislike those--but this phenomenon reminds me of a tendency I see in the new left, the Woke...whatever you want to call them. These folks don't care much about doing good, as long as they feel good. So *feeling* good is viewing the mentally ill like Forrest Gumps, special and ultimately benign and even benevolent, but *doing* good is actually dealing with the messy reality of mental illness, and for many that's just too much goddamn work. Easier to tweet angrily about Kanye than to think in a nuanced way about him or, heaven forbid, actually take action to maybe make things better.

I admit I generally take a consequentialist moral view, so I tend to evaluate people not by their words or their stated beliefs, but by the good (or evil) they introduce to the world. There are other moral views, definitely, but for myself I've had it with moralizing self-righteousness that extends no further than the Internet. I'm tired of being lectured to about mental illness by people who wouldn't lift a finger to help someone who wasn't mentally ill in a way that Ernest Owens or Robin DiAngelo would approve. I wish those who speak the loudest were those who actually worked the hardest.

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Dec 5, 2022·edited Dec 5, 2022

This is gonna sound really crude, but I think it's obvious by now. These people appear to think that mental illness is something that affects ONLY liberals. That it ONLY affects people who have the "correct" viewpoints as handed down to us by Tumblr.

And if mental illness symptoms are happening to a conservative or anyone else? Nope. Can't be mental illness. It just means they're bad, full stop.

And I just don't know how that idea can work in any functional society.

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Jesse, as someone with aspergers and a slew of mental health issues from growing up with mentally ill and abusive parents, I wish I had more friends like you.

This is the reality of having mental illness and/or neuropsych disorders. People love to say how they totally understand and want to help (including employers) until they see the reality of what it's like to need extra supports or the bad times where shit hits the fan.

There's definitely a magical thinking about therapy and resilience - I'm alive, I'm gainfully employed, I take my meds and fought for years to get the therapy I need... But therapy isn't magic, and therapists aren't supposed to be your friends.

I'm very open about my issues, but I've become totally isolated because I cannot cope with being dumped as a friend by another person who doesn't get that what I live with every day isn't always cute or quirky. The gentrification of ADHD and autism (that Freddie De Boer has written about and I agree 90% with his take) has totally ruined what little community there was for us who are high functioning. And what little understanding there was from normal people.

I'm not Sheldon Cooper or Attorney Wu, I'm a real person with a brain that doesn't process or filter information in the usual way. I can't read your facial expressions, I can't soften my language to sound appropriately deferential, my emotional expression is either 0 or 100 regardless of how I'd actually rate how I'm feeling, I get lost when the seasons change, I can't evaluate the importance level of details and get stuck, etc etc.

Watching Kanye succumb to what is clearly some kind of psychosis has been heartbreaking. It's the same exact reception that Terry Davis got (the programmer responsible for Temple OS and whose slur filled diatribes were picked up as 4chan argot) got 20 years ago.

Nothing has changed.

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You make a slight concession to the shallow ally’s who say “well it can’t be bipolar.”

It’s not even that clear cut (it’s complicated!)

I have learned in the aftermath of some very sad goings on that there are different types of mania, and can even include psychosis. It’s not all hyper confidence and erratic behaviour - it can also be extremely dark and conspiratorial.

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I would suggest that every society has its fault lines, social conflicts, etc., and that people with certain mental health issues become  particularly sensitive to whatever controversial ideas are "floating in the air".

they will tend to obsess about them, and become vulnerable to the most extreme versions of them.

Which is why I tend to believe that progressive politics exacerbates the problem by making these issues particularly urgent and salient and therefore most likely to attract the attention of people with severe mental issues .

 What would have been under the radar earlier now becomes the focus point for a lot of toxic emotions.

 And people with extremely negative toxic emotions in the first place are drawn to them as explanations for their feelings.

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In a banal sense, it's obviously true that mental illness doesn't make someone antisemitic, anti-Black, etc. But as Jesse says, it can make people susceptible to conspiracism, hateful speech, and anti-social conduct. In a society that's the product of Christian European civilization, antisemitism and white racism are two of the more likely hatreds that might afflict someone who is mentally ill. If that's what happened to Kanye West, then it's likely that were he the product of a different civilization he would have fallen prey to a different hatred. As Jesse also says, however, mental illness can be disinhibiting. West may have held antisemitic views or tendencies for some time, only to express them publicly as, due to mental illness, he lost control over himself.

To the extent West is unwell, he needs help, which virtually none of us is able to provide. What we can and should do is reject and combat his antisemitism, just as we should be rejecting and combating Nick Fuentes's white supremacism (and, of course, his antisemitism) regardless of whether Fuentes's conduct is a manifestation of mental illness.

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I suspect what is happening is a kind of self-reinforcing belief about the mildness of psych disorders. It basically goes like this: you express sentiments that say psych disorders don't contribute to any bad or obnoxious behavior, as a result everyone in your life with a psych disorder works overtime to prevent any REAL side effects from being aparent, so then you associate psych disorders with your friends and family who are actively hiding reality from you which reinforces the initial belief. The fundamental reality is that a psych disorder that does not meaningfully impact your day-to-day functioning and relationships is just not a disorder.

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You mention the question of agency in the context of mental illness, but there is also a question of agency in the context of belief. We tend to assume people are responsible for their beliefs, but I'm not sure that is true. While you can certainly choose how you act on your beliefs, and whether you open yourself up to things that either challenge or support your beliefs, you kind of believe what you believe.

For example, if you do not believe "all women are women" you can't just decide tomorrow that, because most(much?) of society has decided that this is right and good, that you should believe it as well. You could, in theory, decide not to express your view, but, other than to bow to social pressure, I'm not sure why you would do so, at least not when the topic is being discussed. I'm assuming most of the people who read this Substack are of the view that, outside of social situations where you are avoiding weighty topics out of social politeness, it is better for people to speak their mind rather than self-censor.

I kind of feel like the same applies to Ye. Obviously, Anti-Semitism is very bad. However, whether he came to his beliefs through mental illness, or exposure to bad influences or something else, if Ye actually believes what he is saying, it is a little weird to blame him for holding those views. He didn't chose them any more than you chose your own beliefs and he can't choose not to hold them. At most, he could choose to open himself up to alternative perspectives (which he should, and maybe he is) and/or choose not to express his views due to social pressure (and, as noted above, I don't know why he would or even that this is a principle we want to endorse).

Ultimately, I'm not exactly sure how to think about this. I want to say that Nazis, racists and anti-semites are morally bad, but that conflicts with my views that morality is about choices and the fairly obvious fact that you don't get to choose what you believe. It may be more correct to focus on the fact that people who hold these views are wrong and/or causing harm than it is to focus on their being "bad".

I will caveat this with the possibility that Ye doesn't actually believe this stuff and is just doing it for shock value or something. I think it is pretty easy to blame someone for expressing an odious view that they know to be false.

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I suspect some of this “this isn’t bipolar” has to do with the shift in diagnosis of bipolar disorder. Way back in the day, severe depression was considered a separate illness from more common depression-it had different symptoms, tended to run in families and was associated with past head trauma. Eventually we just dumped most types of depression into one bucket and treated them similarly. As a result we had people diagnosed with depression and less severe symptoms “educating” people on things that depression allegedly was not. And so people with catatonic depression or depression which psychotic symptoms (which is very common in melancholic depression) we’re sort of left out. I’ve been around people with this type of severe depression and it really is different from the disease most people get diagnosed with.

Bipolar 1 used to be called manic depression but we now include bipolar 2 and bipolar NOS in the bipolar bucket. Those conditions seem to be different-people with bipolar 1 in the family tend to get bipoal1, not bipolar 2. With this wider diagnostic criteria for bipolar disorder most people with a bipolar diagnosis do not have bipolar 1 and their experiences of hypomania really aren’t relevant to the experience of people with full-fledged psychotic mania. Just like the experience Of someone with mild non-melancholic depression isn’t relevant to the experience of someone with severe melancholic depression.

Speaking as a woman of childbearing years whose friends are primarily in that demographic group I have also noticed that bipolar disorder is commonly diagnosed in women with not particularly severe depression that does not respond to SSRIs or has irritability as a symptom or shop in a non-dysfunctional manner to cheer themselves up. Hypomania is often a matter of opinion. So some of the “I’m bipolar and I don’t do that” maybe coming from people who were misdiagnosed.

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Re: your 12/05 column. The same is true of "autism" and people with "cognitive disabilities". ( Formerly known as "mentally retarded"). I worked with both disabilities for about 4 decades. One loses one's vision of the poster-child Down's Syndrome kid after the rabies shot needed as the result of him chomping down on your forearm, and needing another staff person to pry open his jaws. The relatives of my clients were well aware of what they were like, as you testified about your mom. Treat em' well, be wary, and get them treatment to GET as well as their brains and bodies allow.

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