In a call for action, Lady Gaga and the head of the World Health Organization are advocating for better understanding of mental health issues and steps to stem the global epidemic of suicide.
“By the time you finish reading this, at least six people will have killed themselves around the world,” the singer-actress-philanthropist, 32, and WHO Director-General Tedros
Adhanom, 53, wrote in a joint essay for the U.K. newspaper The Guardian. And they added: “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.”
Citing chef and TV personality Anthony Bourdain and designer Kate Spade among the 800,000 people who kill themselves annually worldwide, they noted that society struggles to discuss mental health openly “or to offer adequate care or resources. 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.”
Offering WHO statistics showing mental health conditions cost the world $2.5 trillion a year in treatment and lost productivity, the two said, “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.”
One of the most effective current efforts, they wrote, is in New York, “where ThriveNYC has brought local leaders together to build a comprehensive mental health plan.”
Calling for the same type of coordinated global effort that addressed the HIV/AIDS epidemic, they urged “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.”