If you've read a couple of my posts, you know that Halsey is one of my favorite artists. I admire her for her openness, honesty, attention to sonic detail, confessional lyrics, and shapeshifting sense of style. She's always herself, and she isn't afraid of that. Part of that is being open about living with bipolar disorder, which she fully explored on her latest (brilliant) album, Manic.
Today, on YouTube, she released a twelve minute conversation with Dr. Snehi Kapur where they talked about bipolar disorder and mental health awareness in general while raising money for the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance. I was thrilled when I heard she was doing this, and the conversation that was had managed to both be informative and interesting. While she's always been very open about her struggles, I loved that she gave it a dedicated moment here to focus on her experiences and raising awareness. Major stars who millions look up to can do wonders to shift public perception and improve understanding. Often, people have a hard time understanding living with the complexities of a mental illness until they find someone they already relate to that deals with it. Artists like Halsey humanize the issue enough for people to become more educated, and that's a truly wonderful thing. Also, by talking so openly, she makes fans who also have bipolar or another mental illness feel less alone. She represents the ultimate story of learning to overcome and proves that anything is possible, even if those around them doubt it. Watching the conversation today made Halsey an even more empowering figure in my mind.
While I encourage all of you to go watch it to capture the full impact of their discussion, I wanted to talk about the moments that stuck out for me. They covered a lot of ground from media perception to validating your feelings and getting help to how to be a good ally.
The largest portion of the conversation was Halsey sharing her own experiences and the doctor helping to contextualize them and turn them into an educational experience. She had many relatable moments. Around this, one part I particularly liked was Halsey voicing her biggest concern when she was first diagnosed at sixteen or seventeen wondering "How do I know what I'm allowed to feel". The doctor's advice was really great and continued the theme of acceptance, which really is the guiding principle with improving mental health. She talked about the importance of not "policing you emotions" and acknowledging the validity of whatever you might feel to be able to process them. It's good advice for everyone. The doctor concluded, "Mental illness is real, but you can have a functional life."
They also delved into the fact that mental illness isn't something to be conquered or beat or won. There's such a perception that there's a cure or an answer or a way to vanquish it if you try hard enough, but that's truly not the case. It's impossible, and not creating that expectation is imperative. I'm glad they're talking so openly about it on a major scale.
Halsey talked about her journey with it and how she thinks of the cycles. "I've always said to myself as my general mantra, 'Achieving mental health doesn't happen. It's not a destination. You never arrive at mental health and go 'Hey I'm glad I got here. That took a lot of work'. It's a perpetual journey. It takes constant, constant care, attention, and energy." That's something easy to forget, but it's true. Feeling like you've arrived only lasts so long, and matinence is important. It's something she's had to learn the hard way. She's talked about learning to know the signals and acknowledge when she needs help referencing a time around the release of her second album when she realizes she was drifting back to a similar place as when she was a teen, "It's not that bad right now but I can recognize that it could be going that way." Taking matters into her own hands, she restarted therapy. When the feeling came back around Manic's release, she took what she'd learned and focused on it. "I would stop myself and go, 'This feeling will pass'".
The final part of her personal journey they discuss stems from self-acceptance. Creating Manic was a huge part of that for Halsey. I loved the way she articulated the importance of loving and finding positivity in all parts of yourself- even the ones you'd rather not deal with. It's such an important message, especially for the young adult audience. "Manic for me was a celebration because, for a long time, I had really struggled with my mania. It was the worst part of it for me. I considered that girl... irresponsible and untrustworthy- unreliable. She spoke too loud. She had a million ideas and couldn't get any of them done. And in the process of making this album, I had to kind of make peace with this side of myself." Peace is really the ultimate goal. Halsey has an amazing way of discussing mental illness in a way that neither glorifies or vilifies it. She's realistic and can be loving towards all parts of herself. It makes her a truly wonderful person to look up to and advocate for greater awareness. She continues by acknowledging the good sides, "When I'm manic, I make my best art, I'm compassionate. It's given me everything that I have".
They also briefly touched on mental illnesses portrayal in media and how that contributes to the stigma as well as how being open has presented challenges for Halsey in her career. They get into it far more in the video, but there were a couple key points that stuck out to me. She immediately points out the double standard that the media likes to perpetuate. "The media is very celebratory of mental illness when they're getting something out of it... If it takes something from them... they weaponize it." Being open and honest about it has created awkward moments for Halsey. When she wants to cancel an appearance over a physical illness, she has to worry about them coming up with a story about a some made up breakdown or emphasizing that she's unstable. They perpetuate stereotypes for the sake of clickbait and a better story than a sore throat, which is truly so destructive both to the person they target and the wider community. She also points out pop culture's, "obsession and dictate for the crazy woman." The idea of the Manic Pixie Dreamgirl runs through Halsey's work, and it's interesting to hear her openly discuss it.
This transitioned into the conversation around lessening the stigma and creating more acceptance and understanding. I liked how broad Halsey's interpretation and understanding of what needs to change is. Our society is extremely interconnected, and she's right that you can't make one change without the help of many other shifts. Most of those "spiderwebs" go back to "letting people be who they are." These changes include ending toxic masculinity so that those emotional barriers come down and allow people to seek health. For women, it's eliminating the expectations of perfection that bar so many people from getting a diagnosis. There's destigmatizing and ending the alienation of LGBTQIA people so that coming forward about their mental illness isn't seen as "another thing on the list". It's an insightful statement, and it's true that a lot of society looks at every label or uniqueness or difference as another strike or complication. It's such a toxic outlook but extraordinarily prevalent. I love that Halsey takes a moment to call attention to that.
They also got into the importance of others being good allies and educating themselves so they can react and help properly. While they both agreed how much of a relief it is for someone with a mental illness to get a diagnosis, families often don't share or support in that. It's the first place you find stigma and negativity. Halsey shared her personal experience with that saying, "When I got my diagnosis, the first thing people around me did was apologize. The second thing everybody did was tell me all the things I wouldn't be able to do. That was pretty devastating... Looking back at it now I realized that was the moment my life changed, and I realized what I could do." I loved her interpretation of this and her promise that it can be better. It's all about framing and which parts you choose to look at, which is encouraging for those who are first learning to work with their diagnosis. Families need to support that.
Giving advice there, Dr. Kapur tells allies to follow the mantra "Acceptance, Acceptance, Acceptance". Three different kinds. You have to accept that it can happen to anyone- high or low functioning, young or old. Acceptance that your loved one will need help. As she'd mentioned earlier, it's important as someone dealing with mental illness to "tell people around you about your needs". And finally, acceptance that mental illness is a recurring thing. Disorders like bipolar are cycles, others have ups and downs. This part takes the longest for others to grasp. They want you to just get better- either from a place of ignorance or confusion- even though that's not even the goal. Dr. Kapur goes on to suggest, "'Ask how do you feel?' 'Can I help you in some way'. It's all about giving the control back to the patients". That's such a huge thing. Not infantilizing or making people feel less capable or empowered to make choices about their lives. This is such great advice and so important to share. Her final great advice is to "Uplift each other, listen to each other."
I'm so glad Halsey shared this brief conversation, and there's so much more in the video itself. I love how she both discussed her experience and struggles and emphasized how much she's been able to do as a person living with mental illness. The conversation is casual and open. The tone is inviting and understanding. I love when artists share open moments of vulnerability like this because it allows their audience to empathize with them on a deeper level and maybe learn something about themselves. It's so important that we continue to have this discussion and keep thinking about ways we can contribute as individuals to ending the stigma and being more understanding as a society. As Halsey said, "The point was to give people a place to start the conversation".
I encourage you all to watch the video and spark the conversation with whoever you're with.
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