This summer, the world was rocked by the deaths of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, who both lost their lives to suicide. These tragic deaths raised awareness of those who silently suffer from mental health issues, including depression, and underscored the enormous problem at hand in providing mental healthcare for everyone who needs it.
On Oct. 9, pop singer and “A Star Is Born” actor Lady Gaga has teamed up with Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, the director-general of the World Health Organization, to pen a powerful op-ed for The Guardian about suicide. The piece tackles the issues surrounding mental healthcare, or lack thereof, and asks that we all work to de-stigmatize illnesses that plague so many.
According to the piece, 800,000 people will kill themselves this year. Many more people — one in four, in fact — will have mental health issues at some point in their lives. In other words, all of us know someone who has struggled. Yet despite how widespread mental health issues are, many people cannot find adequate mental healthcare.
“Suicide is the most extreme and visible symptom of the larger mental health emergency we are so far failing to adequately address,” the op-ed reads. “Stigma, fear and lack of understanding compound the suffering of those affected and prevent the bold action that is so desperately needed and so long overdue.”
Lady Gaga has been a longtime supporter of de-stigmatizing mental health issues. She founded the Born This Way Foundation in 2012 to help young people address mental wellness, and she herself has been open about surviving a sexual assault by a record producer when she was 19 years old. She has been open about discussing the post-traumatic stress disorder she still deals with as a result of that violation.
“For me, with my mental health issues, half of the battle in the beginning was, I felt like I was lying to the world because I was feeling so much pain but nobody knew,” she said in an interview with Vogue. “So that’s why I came out and said that I have PTSD, because I don’t want to hide—any more than I already have to.”
She and Dr. Ghebreyesus wrote that no one should have to hide from these issues.
“We can no longer afford to be silenced by stigma or stymied by misguided ideas that portray these conditions as a matter of weakness or moral failing,” the article reads. “The time has come for us all, collectively, to tackle the causes and symptoms of mental illness, and provide care for those who suffer from it. You don’t have to be an international artist or the head of the World Health Organization (WHO) to make an impact.”
According to the authors, the time is now to change the perceptions surrounding mental health issues and to better the way we care for those dealing with them in the process. And we can all do that in our own way, through “individual acts of bravery and compassion,” they wrote, continuing:
“The two of us have taken different paths in life. But both of us have seen how political leadership, funding, innovation and individual acts of bravery and compassion can change the world. It is time to do the same for mental health.”