08/19/2014 12:45 EDT | Updated 10/19/2014 05:59 EDT

The Kardashians Shouldn't Downplay Rob's Depression
Rob Kardashian 2012 E Television Network UpFront, held at Gotham Hall in New York City, Monday, April 30, 2012. 4/30/12 © Jennifer Graylock/ 310-657-9661

I'll proudly admit it -- I'm a huge Kardashian fan. I have watched every episode since the first, and have watched this tight knit family grow into their fame. Of course the haters enjoy nothing more than to accuse the Kardashian ladies of acquiring their fame through less than respectable methods, but I see hard working young women who have transformed a little Calabasas clothing store into a fashion empire.

However, recently, as events have unfolded in the lives and divorce of Khloe Kardashian and Lamar Odom, a side story remains tucked away in the shadows making brief, albeit heartbreaking appearances. Rob Kardashian, the only son in the Kardashian clan, whose brotherly bond with Lamar Odom -- before Odom's issues with addiction tore his marriage and his relationship with his brother-in-law apart -- had confided to Odom that his current struggle with his weight was contributing to an increasing sense of loneliness. A few times during season eight, some of the family members had referred to Rob's forlorn mood, and appropriately labelled him as being depressed. The focus, however, was mostly directed towards Rob's efforts, or lack thereof, to lose weight and get fit.

Now as I follow this newest season, my fandom is lessening as I witness the brief moments where Rob is on camera, his demeanor clearly dejected and withdrawn. It is not surprising that this young man would struggle with depression based on a public family history in which his father, Robert Kardashian Senior, one of OJ Simpson's attorneys, lost his battle to esophageal cancer when Rob was only 16 years old. The death of his dad alone would have been enough to trigger situational depression, but as we witness throughout the seasons, Rob is most often overlooked by his mother in order to ensure her daughters' successes (more specifically Kim's) but is also devalued by his siblings, his waning stardom and subsequent lack of motivation, contributors to his very obvious public battle with depression.

As I watch with interest the episodes in which Rob makes brief, infrequent appearances, his pale skin and sunken, lifeless eyes strike within me a kinship -- an acknowledgement that his pain, like mine, is palpable and violent. During one of the more recent episodes, while the family went to Thailand, Rob, who was also expected to attend the vacation, not only did not alert his family to his absence from the televised festivities, but from what we, as viewers were shown, was also MIA for a good portion of the vacation, his sister Khloe desperate to at least speak to him.

Finally, however, this episode did address Rob's increasing battle with his depression. Much to my dismay, as opposed to really tackling this issue, and using Keeping Up With the Kardashians as a means of promoting the realities of mental illness, and fighting back against the stigma which still has many people in the general public believing that depression can be shaken off like droplets from a wet dog's coat, Kim Kardashian is seen discussing her brother's issues, and refers to a method of dealing with his disorder as implementing "tough love." Tough love. Are you fucking kidding me?

It is admitted throughout the episode that Rob Kardashian never leaves his home; avoids his family and friends; and to quote him directly from an article I read in US magazine, he changes his "phone number 10 times a year and [doesn't] ever save my contacts." Tough love will serve no purpose but to further alienate him, and deepen his already deeply seeded feelings of loss. Throughout the entire discussion in this scene, at no point do these celebrities take this "scripted" -- there! I said it! -- yes, scripted opportunity to speak of Rob and his "issues" as a debilitating disorder which breeds many co-morbidities, binge eating being one of them. Instead, Khloe and Kim have an argument about her choice of the term "tough love" but not because it is completely inappropriate in speaking about depression, but because Khloe feels that when he's ready, he'll seek help a perfect world ladies. In a perfect world.

So sadly, these people who are famous for being famous, could be using their celebrity status to promote something other than themselves, but instead chose to discuss depression as a simple emotion that Rob will simply overcome by his sisters nattering at him, and putting him down further. I try not to judge, but really, in a case like this where people are fighting for mental illness to be recognized as real and deadly, seeing the Kardashian ladies sitting around a luxurious table filled with fine wine and delicacies, wiping away at the droplets in the corner of their eyes, I'm more apt to believe that they're upset because the ratings are dropping, not because their brother is on a fast track to hell.


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