Lady Gaga and director general of the World Health Organization Dr. Tedros Adhanom teamed up to write an op-ed for The Guardian about the lack of reliable mental health support services around the world and the need to stop stigmatizing treatable conditions.
“By the time you finish reading this, at least six people will have killed themselves around the world,” begins the essay, which was published Tuesday.
“Those six are a tiny fraction of the 800,000 people who will kill themselves this year — more than the population of Washington, D.C., Oslo or Cape Town,” the piece continues. “Sometimes they are famous names such as Anthony Bourdain or Kate Spade that make headlines, but they are all sons or daughters, friends or colleagues, valued members of families and communities.”
The pair refer to suicide as “the most extreme and visible symptom of the larger mental health emergency we are so far failing to adequately address.” They write that “stigma, fear and lack of understanding” prevent the action needed to prevent suicide.
The op-ed goes on to cite a number of statistics about mental health, including that one in four people will deal with a mental health condition and that suicide is the second leading cause of death among 15- to 29-year-olds. “Yet despite the universality of the issue, we struggle to talk about it openly or to offer adequate care or resources,” they write. “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.”
“Instead of treating those facing mental health conditions with the compassion we would offer to someone with a physical injury or illness, we ostracize, blame and condemn. In too many places support systems are non-existent and those with treatable conditions are criminalized,” they continue. The op-ed notes that mental health receives less than 1 percent of global aid, which costs the world $2.5 trillion a year, while “domestic financing on prevention, promotion and treatment is similarly low.”
“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,” they continue. “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.”
The pair state that everyone should “tackle the causes and symptoms” of mental illness: “We can all learn how to offer support to loved ones going through a difficult time. And we can all be a part of a new movement — including people who have faced mental illness themselves — to call on governments and industry to put mental health at the top of their agendas.”