I should start by saying that I am an unapologetic Little Monster. Despite the fact that most of my playlists are comprised of rock and punk music, there is something about Lady Gaga that speaks to me. I love her style, her voice and (yes) her pop beats. So when I learned Lady Gaga used her Grammy acceptance speech to address suicide and mental health, I wasn’t just happy, I was thrilled. I felt acknowledged. I felt witnessed. As a suicide survivor, I felt seen and heard.
It isn’t every day that mental health comes into the collective consciousness. As a society, we talk about our physical well-being practically daily. We ask questions of one another like, “How are you feeling?” and “Did you manage to get some rest?” but we rarely ask about the tough stuff. Words like “depressed” and “suicide” make us uncomfortable. Most of us don’t know what to say. We don’t know how to respond.
But we can do better. We need to do better and, as Gaga pointed out, our lives — and the lives of our friends, family and peers — depend on it.
“I gotta thank God. Thank you for looking out for me. Thank you for my family at home. I love you… and if I don’t get another chance to say this, I just want to say I’m so proud to be part of a movie that addresses mental health issues. They’re so important. A lot of artists deal with that and we gotta take care of each other. So if you see somebody that’s hurting, don’t look away. And if you’re hurting, even though it might be hard, try to find that bravery within yourself to dive deep and go tell somebody and take them up in your head with you.”
Of course, Gaga’s final words may not make sense to most. I mean, how hard can it possibly be to ask for help? But when you are sick — when you are wading through the darkness of depression or teetering on the edge of suicide — you feel completely isolated and alone. No one “gets” you. No one cares or understands. Plus, you believe reaching out would hurt others. Your sadness would be burden and a bother, so you sit back. You shut up. You suffer, afraid and alone. And in the solitude, your thoughts become twisted. You feel anger, sadness, guilt and shame and believe your family would be better off without you.
I genuinely believed my own death was the best thing I could do to protect those I loved. But it isn’t. I promise you. It isn’t. There is help. There is hope. There is light on the other side.
So, how do you and we as a society get there? By seeing suicide. By addressing (and destigmatizing) suicide, and by having very raw and real conversations about suicide, the ones that are awkward, difficult and distressing — at best. So offer help. Offer a hand and listen without judgment or shame.
Their lives matter. Your life matters. And so does mine.
If you’re considering suicide or fear you may become suicidal, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-TALK (8255). If you’re worried about someone you love, visit the Suicide Prevention Lifeline, and to learn more about the warning signs of suicide, check out the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention.