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 In Mental Health, Pop Culture

Mental health and addiction are often closely related. Any number of combinations of addiction and mental health disorders can develop, with each having its own set of challenges. When an individual finds themselves unable to cope with the mental health symptoms, they may turn to drugs or alcohol in an attempt to self-medicate. On the other hand, some addictions can grow so severe that it alters the chemicals in the brain long-term, resulting in mental health disorder symptoms.

There is still a certain attitude within society that view symptoms of mental health disorders as uncomfortable and possibly even threatening. These attitudes contribute to the stigma surrounding mental health issues. Fostering stigma only discourages those suffering from mental illness from admitting and getting help. Fortunately, in today’s modern world, more and more celebrities are speaking of their experience with mental health issues, with one being Lady Gaga.

Lady Gaga on Her Own Mental Health Experience

Back in November, Lady Gaga accepted an award at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s third annual Patron of the Artists Awards. She used the opportunity to deliver a nearly 25-minute speech about the need for better mental health care for people in the entertainment industry. She explained her own “mental health crisis” that lead her to seek professional help.

“I began to notice that I would stare off into space and blackout for seconds or minutes,” Gaga recalled. “I would see flashes of things I was tormented by, experiences that were filed away in my brain with ‘I’ll deal with you later’ for many years because my brain was protecting me, as science teaches us. These were also symptoms of disassociation and PTSD and I did not have a team that included mental health support.”

She continued to detail how her emotional struggle impacted her physically. She explained that it “later morphed into physical chronic pain, fibromyalgia, panic attacks, acute trauma responses, and debilitating mental spirals that have included suicidal ideation and masochistic behavior.”

Referring to mental health issues as a “crisis of epic proportions”, Gaga stated “We need to bring mental health into the light. We need to share our stories so that global mental health no longer resides and festers in the darkness.”

Mental Health and Suicide

This isn’t the first time that she has spoken on mental health. In October of 2018, Gaga wrote a powerful essay centered on suicide and mental health. “At present, every nation in the world is a ‘developing country’ when it comes to mental health,” writes actress and singer, who co-authored the editorial with World Health Organization director-general Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreysus.

Gaga and Ghebreysus discussed suicide, noting that is is the second leading cause of death globally among 15-29-year-olds. In the essay, they stated that while celebrities such as Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade are mourned publicly with news headlines, the 800,000 other people who commit suicide each year “are all sons or daughters, friends or colleagues, valued members of families and communities.”

In 2017, Lady Gaga teamed up with Prince William to raise awareness about mental health and conquer the stigma that surrounds it. The two discussed the issues over a recorded FaceTime video call. “It’s the same as physical health — everybody has mental health, and we shouldn’t feel ashamed of it,” Prince William said. “Just having a conversation with a friend or family member can really make such a difference.”

“There’s a lot of shame attached to mental illness. You feel like something’s wrong with you,” Lady Gaga told William during her video call, “Even though it was hard, it was the best thing that could come out of my mental illness — was to share it with other people,” she said.

The two agreed that instead of suffering in silence, people should be encouraged to get help. “It’s really important to have this conversation,” Prince William said. “You won’t be judged. It’s so important to break open that fear and that taboo which is only going to lead to more problems down the line.”

“Despite the universality of the issue, we struggle to talk about it openly or to offer adequate care or resources,” they note. “Within families and communities, we often remain silenced by a shame that tells us that those with mental illness are somehow less worthy or at fault for their own suffering.”

Ending the Stigma

The social stigma associated with mental health and mental health treatment only encourages prejudice and discriminating behavior with mental health issues. When this happens, it results in social exclusion, poor support, and low self-esteem Stigma has a detrimental effect on the likelihood that these individuals will receive treatment and recover. Not only that, but it also downplays the importance of mental health treatment in society.

So how can we work to eliminate this stigma? Talk about it. Educate yourself. Spread awareness. Regardless of whether or not you suffer from mental health problems yourself, be conscious of others that do. Lady Gaga is certainly doing her part by speaking from experience and spreading awareness in order to tackle the stigma.

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