Lady Gaga may be best known for her music, but the singer is also an outspoken advocate for mental health. In fact, Gaga is currently promoting her new movie, A Star Is Born, which confronts several of these issues, including depression, addiction and suicide. But on Tuesday, Gaga took her advocacy work to another level when she wrote an op-ed for The Guardian to bring attention and awareness to the international mental health crisis.
The letter started by addressing the alarming rates of suicide.
"By the time you finish reading this, at least six people will have killed themselves around the world. Those six are a tiny fraction of the 800,000 people who will kill themselves this year," Gaga wrote. "Sometimes they are famous names such as Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade that make headlines, but they are all sons or daughters, friends or colleagues, valued members of families and communities."
Of course, suicide is but one piece of the mental health puzzle — and it is arguably the most extreme manifestation of a disruption to one's mental well-being — but it is imperative we talk about suicide because, as Gaga notes, it is a very "visible symptom of the larger mental health emergency we are so far failing to adequately address."
According to the World Health Organization, 1 in 4 people have been and/or will be affected by mental illness during the course of their life.
This makes mental illness one of the most prevalent illnesses known to man.
However, the failures of the mental health care system are multifaceted. In spite of the "universality of the issue, we struggle to talk about it openly or to offer adequate care or resources," Gaga explained, and this is due to socially imposed issues — like guilt, shame, fear and stigma — as well as economic ones, like inadequate funding.
In fact, mental health care currently receives less than 1 percent of global aid.
So what can we do? What should we do? According to Gaga, "[W]e can all help to build communities that understand, respect and prioritize mental wellness. We can all learn how to offer support to loved ones going through a difficult time… we can all be a part of a new movement — including people who have faced mental illness themselves — to call on governments and industry to put mental health at the top of their agendas."
And perhaps most important, we can all talk about mental health and suicide openly, honestly and without stigma. Because silence breeds shame, and shame keeps us sick.
If you or someone you know is having suicidal thoughts, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255, visit SuicidePreventionLifeline.org, or text “START” to 741-741 to immediately speak to a trained counselor at Crisis Text Line.