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Lady Gaga: “Our parents aren’t the only role-model”

If you can’t speak to your family about mental health, try and share with your friends, the singer says. With her mother, she also opened a foundation, Born This Way, to promote open discussion.

As her fans are aware, pop icon and philanthropist Lady Gaga has long been a vocal advocate for mental health issues, speaking out frequently about her own struggles with mental health and attempting to help others navigating similar difficulties to feel less alone.

Part of her commitment includes Born This Way, the non-profit foundation named after her 2011 LP which she and her mother Cynthia Germanotta founded in 2012. Born This Way foundation's stated aim is to offer young people support and to promote kindness and open discussion of mental health, which Gaga has called a “crisis of epic proportions.” In interviews Gaga has always been frank about her own mental health, speaking candidly to Oprah Winfrey in January of this year about being a survivor of sexual assault, post-traumatic stress disorder, the “psychotic break” which resulted in her hospitalisation and the stigma surrounding mental health medication like the anti-psychotic she says has vastly improved her quality of life.

At the recent virtual presentation of Channel Kindness: Stories of Kindness and Community - a collection of writings by young people from around the world collated by the BTW foundation - Gaga and Cynthia answered questions from attendees, and when the difficulty of discussing mental health with parents was raised, Gaga's mother made it clear that she understood first hand why many young people are wary of broaching the issue. In her experience, she said, it's because the tough, strong exterior many parents feel obliged to present to their children and to the outside world can make them reluctant to display vulnerability by discussing their own struggles with mental health - and consequently reluctant to discuss those of their children too.

Parents should try not to make their children feel judged when they discuss mental health issues with them, she said, concluding "I've learned from both of my daughters that listening, but also understanding and validating their emotions without judgement, is very, very important."

Gaga's advice for those who find it impossible to speak to their parents about mental health was to share and engage in dialogue with the people in their own personal community. “I don’t believe that it’s only our parents that role-model for us,” she said. “I believe it’s also our friends."

This idea of a community built around people sharing their own stories and listening to those of others is what's behind Channel Kindness, a collection of 51 true stories by young people which speak about kindness, bravery and resilience, with notes and comments by Gaga herself.

"That’s why this book (and the) Foundation matters so much to me,” Gaga concluded. “You can be your own family, and you can create your own family.”

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