What Kim Kardashian and Kanye West’s Potential Divorce Means for Couples Dealing With Mental Illnesses


In this op-ed, Harriet Prior explains what Kim and Kanye’s potential divorce means for people with mental illnesses, and why the pair’s relationship made her feel represented.

Brad and Angelina, Miley and Liam, Justin and Selena. There are some celebrity pairings you simply expect to last forever. You become so invested that when they split, your utopian vision of true love is shattered — and it can feel like you are vicariously going through a breakup.

Yet when reports surfaced earlier this week that, six years and four children later, Kim Kardashian and Kanye West might part ways, the general sentiment was somewhat negative. There was less sadness, and instead many were quick to jump on the bandwagon that they saw it coming. After all, it had been alleged they were living separate lives for the best part of a year, and there had been little sign of Kanye on Kim’s social channels. Not even a Kardashian Christmas card.

For better or worse, the Kardashians are my vice. I don’t always agree with them, and I often feel irritated that they don’t use their immense power to the degree they could, yet I can’t help but keep up with the most famous family in the world. So, despite the fact that I subconsciously expected it to happen, I feel no shame in admitting this breakup hit me harder than most. Don’t judge me just yet, as I’m not only mourning the relationship of a celebrity couple I’ve never met. Rather, I’m sad to lose a couple that brought the highs and lows of relationships with mental health problems into the mainstream.

For years, Kanye stayed out of the Kardashian spotlight. Trying to see him on their show was like playing an impossible game of Where’s Waldo? Their four children were kept largely under wraps in the early years and the pair rarely spoke publicly about their relationship. That changed in July last year, after Kanye published a series of tweets referencing his bid for presidency, divorce, and his daughter one day appearing in Playboy. As many speculated wildly about Kanye’s mental health (he’s opened up in the past about being diagnosed with bipolar disorder), Kim felt compelled to make a statement.

What followed has widely been praised as a dignified and compassionate response: Kim referred to Kanye as a “brilliant but complicated person” and wrote “anyone who has this [bi-polar disorder] or has a loved one in their life who does knows how incredibly complicated and painful it is to understand.” Addressing her nearly 200 million followers, she acknowledged that she’d been reluctant to comment, but was opening up “because of the stigma and misconceptions about mental health.” “We as a society talk about giving grace to the issue of mental health as a whole, however we should also give it to the individuals who are living with it in times when they need it most.”

Along with many who have struggled with their own mental health, I breathed a strange sigh of relief upon reading this. Rather than the curated perfection we’ve come to expect of the Kardashians, here Kim was tackling the enormity of the problem head on. After all, dating is a difficult, awkward and exhausting endeavor at the best of times, but for those with mental health issues, it can feel at times impossible. Whether you like the couple or not, it felt like a breath of fresh air for these difficulties to be thrusted into the mainstream, helping to tear down the stigma and show people how challenging, yet simultaneously wonderful, relationships with mental health issues can be.



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