Lady Gaga has been a consistent vocal advocate for spreading mental health awareness (she’s even FaceTimed with Prince William about it). In a new op-ed published yesterday—on World Mental Health Day—in The Guardian, she teamed up with the director-general of the World Health Organization (WHO) to call attention to one particularly important aspect of mental health: suicide prevention.
In the op-ed, the authors called out the staggering 800,000 people who are estimated to commit suicide every year. (Those numbers, it’s important to note, are rising in the U.S. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new findings this summer showing 30 percent increases in state-by-state suicide rates.) Globally, suicide is the second most common cause of death for those between the ages of 15 to 29, according to WHO. (Check out everything you need to know about the rising U.S. suicide rate.)
These numbers are just one symptom of a larger mental health crisis, which affects one in four people on the planet, Gaga and director-general Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesu, write. “Suicide is the most extreme and visible symptom of the larger mental health emergency we are so far failing to adequately address,” they said.
So, as the op-ed asks: What can we do about this? Gaga and Ghebreyesu got real about two major problems: 1) stigmas that stop people from speaking up and asking for help, and 2) a lack of resources to actually help them when they do. “Despite the universality of the issue, we struggle to talk about it openly or to offer adequate care or resources. 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,” they write in the op-ed.
The first issue is why Gaga has been speaking out about her own struggles with mental illness—to help destigmatize and spark a larger conversation. In 2016, the singer, actress, and founder of the Born This Way Foundation opened up about her struggle with post-traumatic stress disorder, a result of being sexually assaulted (which she revealed in 2014). “I have a mental illness, and I struggle with that every day so I need my mantra to help keep me relaxed. I’d been searching for ways to heal myself,” she revealed in an interview at the time. “I found that kindness is the best way. The one way to help people that have trauma is to inject them with as many positive thoughts as possible.”
In a Netflix documentary last year, Gaga also opened up about her struggles with feeling alone. And earlier this year, while presenting her mom with an award, she drew attention to the issue again. “I have struggled for a long time, both being public and not public about my mental health issues or my mental illness. But, I truly believe that secrets keep you sick,” she said.
The second issue addressed in the op-ed—the lack of resources—is trickier. “Mental health currently receives less than one percent of global aid. Domestic financing for prevention, promotion, and treatment are similarly low. At present, every nation in the world is a ‘developing’ country when it comes to mental health,” the essay says.
The op-ed ends with a call to action for everyone to step up in addressing mental health issues. “You don’t have to be an international artist or the head of the World Health Organization to make an impact,” Gaga and Ghebreyesu write. “We 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. And 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.”
If you know someone struggling with mental health challenges or thoughts of suicide, the #BeThe1To campaign has some great resources for how you can help. And if you’re struggling with mental health challenges yourself, one of the best things you can do is talk to someone. Here’s how to find the best therapist for you.
If you’re struggling with thoughts of suicide or have felt deeply distressed for a period of time, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) to speak with someone who will provide free and confidential support 24 hours a day, seven days a week.