Lady Gaga Calls Out Our National Mental Health “Crisis” In Stirring Awards Speech
You could be forgiven for thinking Lady Gaga has always been outspoken about her experiences with mental illness. For the last few years, she has been one of the most visible celebrity advocates for better mental health care and wider accessibility of treatment.
As the singer and actress shared last night while receiving an award at the SAG-AFTRA Foundation’s Patron of the Artists Awards, though, that wasn’t always the case.
In an almost 25-minute long speech, she described her own experiences with “debilitating mental spirals” that were exacerbated by her growing fame at the time.
— Carly Mallenbaum (@ThatGirlCarly) November 9, 2018
“After years and years of saying yes to jobs, interviews, events — all opportunities, of course that I am so humbled and grateful to have had, because I know that there are so many who have not — and after working as hard as I possibly could to achieve my dreams, slowly but surely the word yes — ‘Yes, sure’ — became too automatic and my inner voice shut down, which I have learned now is very unhealthy,” she said. “I was not empowered to say no.”
“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.”
Even then, the actress kept her struggles to herself, as they continued to grow into chronic pain, panic attacks, fibromyalgia, and suicidal thoughts.
With treatment, Lady Gaga has become an icon for sexual assault survivors. She now speaks publicly about her experiences with being a survivor of sexual violence, PTSD, and substance abuse. More than anything, she wants to “change the world” to ensure others don’t feel like they need to suffer in silence.
“I wish there had been a system in place to protect and guide me, a system in place to empower me to say no to things I felt I had to do, a system in place to empower me to stay away from toxic work environments or working with people who were of seriously questionable character. There were days that I struggled or couldn’t make it to work, and I don’t want that for other artists or anyone.”
As she talked about her own personal trials, Lady Gaga also referenced and described how these private struggles are becoming a national epidemic contributing to death and violence. She specifically cited the recent shooting in California that left 13 dead as the natural result of stigmatizing mental health.
“We need to share our stories so that global mental health no longer resides and festers in the darkness,” she said. “It is dangerous and we know this, because amongst other shootings and acts of violence, just last night there was a shooting in Thousand Oaks by a veteran who was believed to have suffered from untreated post-traumatic stress disorder (according to authorities he had an episode of erratic behavior last spring that suggested PTSD) which is a mental issue. We know that this is dangerous, we know that it’s important and we have to pay attention to it.”
The stigmatization of mental health and lack of resources won’t change overnight, but with increased advocacy and awareness, Lady Gaga believes we can start making progress for better treatment and accessibility.
“By the year 2030, I wish for everybody to have their person that they can talk to who is an expert and can help them. I am beckoning for this because it is perceived by many that mental health is only talked about in the midst of crisis or when something needs to be fixed. I want teams in place to provide prevention.
“We need to not only think in terms of doctors, billable hours and hospital stays but protective and preventative care for ourselves and each other, holistically. Do you have a mental health team? Who is on it? Who are the people you can turn to? What are the activities that can reduce our stress?”