Your mental health matters. This statement might seem obvious to some, but Lady Gaga and the Born This Way Foundation have created a community where those who struggle with their mental health can turn to for support any day and any time. During an exclusive discussion about her new book Channel Kindness: Stories of Kindness and Community, Gaga sat down with her mother Cynthia Bissett Germanotta and three of the book's young authors — Hanna Atkinson, Jessica Zhang, and Terrius Harris — to discuss the importance of acknowledging mental health struggles and the power of kindness in helping yourself and others. "I believe that everyone's story matters and that we should listen to each other and communicate," Gaga said.
"These are young people coming together as a family, as a global community and saying, 'We can be kind. We can be kind together and we can tell our stories.'"
A mental health study published by the CDC on Aug. 14 shows that 25.5 percent of participants ages 18-24 had seriously considered suicide in the past 30 days. This alarming statistic gives some insight into the often unrecognized pain and internal suffering that so many people are facing as a result of varying life circumstances. During the discussion about the book, Gaga touched on the importance of finding role models beyond the pages of a book and taking the time to be there for those around you who have no one else to turn to.
"Some people don't have parents that can hear what you're saying," she said. "They don't have parents that are willing to listen. Some people don't have parents at all. So I encourage young people to build families in their local community, and I encourage them to celebrate their stories by sharing it with each other and creating a community, creating a culture around you where you can say, 'Hey, this is what I'm going through. What have you been through?'"
From a parent's perspective, Germanotta added that it's important to listen without judgment and tell your children about your own struggles, instead of putting up a facade and pretending everything is all right. "I think sitting down and starting to model a healthy conversation — listening, understanding without judgment — and just acknowledging that you also have had your own struggles is a good beginning," she said.
Gaga went on to add that fostering authentic relationships with your friends is the key to creating a support system where everyone benefits from each other's help. It's important to recognize the power you have in helping others and in acknowledging your own emotions, especially those that make you feel uncomfortable. Whether you enjoy yoga, meditation, art, or reading, find the skill that puts your mind at ease and use that to guide you on your journey to taking better care of your mental health.
"It's good to make sure that you reward yourself for every single thing that you do, because you're brave every day just for taking a breath, but you're braver when you try a little harder," Gaga said. "This is an act of not just love to the world, but this is an act of love to yourself, and you can be your own family and you can create your own family."
If you or a loved one are experiencing suicidal ideation or are at risk, the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline has several resources and a 24/7 lifeline at 1-800-273-8255.