“By the time you finish reading this, at least six people will have killed themselves around the world.” This powerful statistic opens a recent piece by Lady Gaga and Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, Director-General of the World Health Organization (WHO). The singer, songwriter and star of the new film, A Star Is Born, uses her elevated platform to advocate for mental health in a recent op-ed for The Guardian. In the piece, she addresses how mental health is inadequately treated on a global scale, and why it’s so important to end the stigma surrounding the topic, as it prevents those in need from seeking help and hinders access to treatment resources. Gaga writes: “Stigma, fear and lack of understanding compound the suffering of those affected and prevent the bold action that is so desperately needed and so long overdue.”
Gaga is an artist who reaches and influences international audiences, she has been a powerful voice for mental wellness and suicide prevention since founding the Born This Way Foundation in 2012. She has long been vocal about her personal journey with mental health, living with PTSD as a sexual assault survivor. Gaga shares her story to let others know they are not alone and these conditions affect all kinds of people.
Mental health is a growing concern across the United States, especially among young people. The op-ed cites a statistic that notes suicide as the second leading cause of death globally among 15- to 29-year-olds (suicide has since fallen to the fourth leading cause of death in that age range, per the WHO).
Despite the universal nature of mental health issues, there still seems to be a barrier to talking openly about them. One in four people worldwide will be affected by mental health conditions at some point in their lifetime, and they will most likely suffer in silence. According to Gaga and Adhanom, this is because without adequate education or resources these individuals are silenced by shame within their families and communities, one that indirectly tells those suffering from mental illness they are somehow responsible.
Gaga and Adhanom mention suicide specifically as an issue, referring to it as “the most extreme and visible symptom of the larger mental health emergency we are so far failing to adequately address.” They also provide advice, encouraging readers that they can shift the pattern that continues to “ostracize, blame and condemn” people who might be suffering by speaking up and having an honest dialogue about mental health.
The financial and structural impact of appropriate mental health services cannot be ignored. According to Gaga and Adhanom: “We can no longer afford to be silenced by stigma or stymied by misguided ideas that portray these conditions as a matter of weakness or moral failing. Research shows there is a fourfold return on investment for every dollar spent on treating depression and anxiety, the most common mental health conditions, making spending on the issue a great investment for both political leaders and employers, in addition to generating savings in the health sector.”
Gaga and Adhanom praise the help they have received on this global action plan for mental health, and acknowledge there are many different paths in life to find wellbeing, but political leadership, funding, innovation and individual acts of bravery and compassion can make all the difference along the way.
DNA testing: a resource for your mental health treatment
While the importance of access to mental health resources may not be a new sentiment, it is certainly an important one. Treatment needs to be made readily available for patients. For the millions who suffer from mental health, there are many resources available. Pharmacogenetics is one option you may consider with your clinician. Pharmacogenetic testing, like the one offered by Genomind, assists clinicians in optimizing treatment decisions for patients with a mental health condition, including major depression, anxiety disorder, OCD, ADHD, bipolar disorder, PTSD, schizophrenia and others. Ask your clinician if this type of genetic testing could be right for your treatment.