My heart breaks each time I hear from someone whose life has been upended by suicide. Recently, Erica L. Green of The New York Times wrote about the surge of student suicides in Las Vegas. This issue hits home for me, not only because I am deeply involved in the Las Vegas community, but also because my life too was upended by suicide.
This experience for me, 12 years ago, changed my purpose in life and brought me to where I am today: the first executive director of Born This Way Foundation. The foundation, co-founded and led by Lady Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, supports the mental health of young people and works with them to create a kinder and braver world.
The work we do is deeply personal. For the past two years, our team has immersed itself in the Las Vegas community, supporting local nonprofits, convening youth leaders, and partnering with organizations. Together with our friends at the National Council for Behavioral Health, we brought teen Mental Health First Aid to Valley High, making it one of the first schools in the country to provide this life-saving program to their students. Green writes of a father who lost his 18-year-old son, reporting, “his father did not know anything was wrong until he found his son’s body in the car, grabbed his arm and asked, ‘Son, what have you done?’ ” To me, that question echoes differently and personally. I hear him asking me what could have been done.
I don’t have the answers, but I’ve spent the past 12 years putting puzzle pieces together to help find them. Today, I write to all the parents, teachers, young people, youth advocates, neighbors and friends I’ve met in Las Vegas and communities around the world through my work at Born This Way Foundation. On behalf of our team, I am writing to share what we know, what we have available, and remind you that you are not alone.
- Visit PleaseStay.us and take the #PleaseStayPledge to access evidence-based self-care tips and resources to support your mental wellness.
- Learn about Find Your Anchor, the lifesaving suicide-prevention box, and request a box for yourself too.
- Use Jack.org’s BeThere.org virtual resource to learn how to recognize if a loved one is struggling and connect them with support.
- Find and share inspiring stories of hope, kindness and resilience on ChannelKindness.org and read more stories of bravery and kindness written by young authors (and Lady Gaga) in our Channel Kindness book.
- Learn about teen Mental Health First Aid, which trains high school students to identify, understand and respond to signs and symptoms of mental health or substance use issues in their friends. Funding is available to public high schools to bring this lifesaving program at no cost. Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you want to bring tMHFA to your school.
- Find additional resources for support, helplines and chat service, evidence-based self-care tips, and other useful information that can help you survive and thrive.
I do this work for my family and to spare another family the pain, loss and unfinished love that ours has experienced.
Twelve years ago, my father-in-law George sent me a text message to tell me he loved me. Today, the world feels like it did then, filled with equal amounts of hope and anticipation following an inauguration. I didn’t think much of the text when I received it, as I knew George was celebrating with us from afar. I responded, “I love you too, Mr. S,” and boarded my flight to Chicago from Washington, D.C., where I was headed to present at a conference. I would return that night, having left all of my belongings except for my wallet, phone and, oddly, the TV remote from the hotel room I had just barely checked into. The unprompted “I love you” was goodbye, and George had died. My husband Dave’s world — and that of his siblings — collapsed. As I hugged Dave on that cold January night, I knew that the world, our love and my purpose in life would be different.
I am committed to sharing, learning and amplifying life-saving resources. Twelve years ago, I didn’t yet know that “I love you” could be goodbye, but I do now. I would tell George, just as I tell people every day, that they matter, that I am so glad they are here, and the world just wouldn’t be as good without them. Please. Stay.