Because shame, stigma, guilt, and denial kept me suffering in silence, it has taken me decades to admit, navigate, and begin to treat my persistent anxiety and depression, largely because we’re not talking enough about mental health and wellness. It’s true that dialogue increases when someone in the public eye takes their own life, but as Lady Gaga has said time and again, early intervention is key to treating mental illnesses. Part of this is reducing the stigma around talking about mental illness in the first place so people can seek help before they reach a crisis point. This is why Gaga's Born This Way Foundation’s #Someone2Turn2 Challenge is more important than ever. Because mental illness is an isolating experience, normalizing discussions about it can make asking for help less overwhelming.
Supported by United for Global Mental Health, of which Born This Way Foundation co-founder and president, Gaga’s mom Cynthia Germanotta, is an ambassador, “#Someone2Turn2 challenges the public to have a real, honest, and open discussion about mental health this October with the person they turn to when they need support, and then share who their #Someone2Turn2 is on social media,” according to a press release about the initiative. What’s more, studies have shown that mental illness and chronic disease are deeply intertwined, and people living with untreated mental illness have a lower life expectancy. On the other hand, those who feel supported and have a non-judgemental person to talk openly with about their mental health actually live longer because they’re more likely to seek treatment.
Additionally, having #Someone2Turn2 can not only benefit the person disclosing a mental illness, it has a ripple effect that helps others feel more comfortable speaking out as well. This is one of the reasons Gaga disclosed her own mental-health struggles. “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. 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 said in a recent interview with Vogue.
Gaga’s admission also goes a long way toward dispelling the myth that money and fame are synonymous with happiness and mental wellness. At the end of the day, we’re all human beings trying to navigate this complicated, messy, and beautiful thing we call life. What can help promote mental wellness is acknowledging mental illness and offering acceptance and support.
“Be it a family member, co-worker, friend, or someone to listen on a helpline, everyone deserves to have a person in their life who they can turn to when they just need to talk, really talk, without fear of judgement,” Germanotta said. “That’s why we are calling on people all over the world to get in the habit of starting honest conversations about mental wellness with the people in their lives. This challenge is one way to help spark a lifetime of support by reminding us all that we are never alone, even in our darkest moments.”
As humans beings, our first instinct when we see someone suffering is to go into triage mode and try to fix the problem before the person who has sought us out for help has even finished their first sentence. This is me all day. I am a fixer, but I am learning that I don’t need to fix everything. I don’t have that power. Listening with kindness is more effective, and it doesn’t cost me a thing to actively listen to another person who needs someone to talk to.
“This was a time when Stefani (Gaga) was really having some of her deepest struggles...and my husband and I wanted to swoop in and fix everything...we spent the next 30 minutes trying to fix the problem...at the end of the walk she looked at us and said, that was really lovely and I enjoyed the walk, but I really just wanted you to listen to me..." Germanotta said at BUILD Series, the immersive live interview series where fans get to participate in discussions with public figures they admire.
As researchers continue to try to unlock the secrets to mental illness, it turns out that the most helpful things you can do are also the easiest—listen and acknowledge. If you have a friend, family member, co-worker, or loved one who is struggling with mental illness, and you’re at a loss about how to help, take the Channel Kindness #Someone2Turn2 challenge. When you sign up you’ll receive helpful tips and tools to have supportive conversations about mental health. If you need someone to talk to, and you don’t have anyone in your life to turn to, there are a number of hotlines you can call. That being said, I totally get that not everyone feels comfortable talking on the phone with a stranger.
The good news is that you can use the Crisis Text Line 24/7 by texting HOME to 741741. You’ll get immediate text support from a trained counselor who can be your #Someone2Turn2. I have lived with anxiety and depression since I was 4, and being able to talk openly about it has done more to heal me than any medication ever could. But I still take those meds too because when you’re on the mental-health battlefield, you need an army, and every tool at your disposal is one of your soldiers.
The bottom line? No matter how bad you’re feeling right now, you are not alone. One if four people will struggle with mental illness in their lifetime, and even when you’re in the middle of that dark tunnel, please remember that there is light on both sides. You will eventually find your way out. If you need a supportive ear, your #Someone2Turn2 can be me. I’m here, and I’m ready to listen.
Do you have someone you can talk to when you’re struggling? Share your story in the comments below.