Mental Health and Our Favourite Artists

Written by Toby

In the spirit of our upcoming event MHz, I thought it would be worth my time talking about those who fit in the spectrum of mentally ill but are ever-present in our culture, changing our world in terms of art but struggling with something rarely taken seriously due to their status. Not only do most celebrities seem impenetrable, but those who are affected rarely get the help they need before it's too late or before it becomes a massive struggle.

There are, unfortunately, a large number of artists that have had lost their lives due to their issues with mental health. There are those like Kurt Cobain who are often romanticised by pop culture, to a point where the fact that Kurt was so evidently dealing with mental issues is blurred out in an effort to make suicide seem cool and romantic. However, those dealing with the grief, are most certainly not going to feel this way. Addiction was a large playing point in Cobain's downward spiral, as it was with legendary modern artist Jean Michael- Basquiat who got addicted to heroin, and at his worst held the point of view that ' they say when I'm taking the drugs I'm dying, but when I stop they say my art is dying'. However, like many, Basquiat used heroin as a method with the intense pressure he was facing as an artist, and unfortunately was clean when the intense heat of New York took his life.

However, there are many artists today that suffer with mental health issues, and face the wrath of the public and media trying to weigh in with their ignorance on the certain labels of those who face an episode. Take Kanye West for instance. It's no secret to his fans that he's suffered with the grief of his late mother Donda West, who played a large role in Kanye's life – with his father being barely around. However, to the public, he's perceived as crazy or manic, especially after Kanye's hospitalisation in November of 2016. Bringing attention to an event like this doesn't always bring out the respectful people who may, although having a generally negative opinion of Kanye, understand what he's going through.

If you're interested Kanye has an emotional unreleased track in the ether of the internet called 'I feel like that' where Kanye lists symptoms for multiple different panic, anxiety and mental disorders, and in the chorus passionately exclaiming that he 'feels like that'. For those of you suffering with anything of the sort, just know that you have something in common with one of the most influential artists of this generation – which just goes to show how common mental illness really is. It's likely that if you look up any influential artist, that some kind of anxiety, depression, or any kind of mental disorder is something they have faced – and it's not always got to have a bad ending either. A good example of this is Yung Lean, a 20-year-old rapper from Sweden who is responsible for some of the most popular aesthetics in modern music, such as spaced out rap and lo fi visuals, was also taken to a mental hospital in Miami after having an erratic episode due to drugs. He later found out his longtime manager and friend had died in a car crash that same day; this was obviously a lot for young Jonatan Leandoer to handle, especially at such a young age but seems to be in good health, with his album 'Frost God' having a much lighter and uplifting tone than that of his drug and depression fuelled 'Warlord'.

Celebrities are just like us – It seems corny but it is true, and just like us everyday citizens, mental health can affect them too, somewhat defying the negative stigma attached to the label of 'mental illness'. In many ways, knowing that someone you look up to or whose art you appreciate, shares something in common with you, helps with the feeling of isolation that can often come with these disorders and in some way normalise your experience to the ever judging public.