The Importance of Taking Time Out and The Danger of Stigmatizing Medication

Long-term mental-illness survivor and advocate Stefani Germanotta (more commonly known as Lady Gaga) has recently been quoted in multiple news outlets discussing her struggles in the past and present with her mental health. This is on the verge of her new album release, which comes three years after the release of “Artpop”, having taken some time out of music in order to prioritize her mental health. Bravely, she has spoken about falling ill to depression and an eating disorder back in 2013:

“I became very depressed at the end of 2013. I was exhausted. I was angry, cynical and had this deep sadness like an anchor dragging everywhere I go. My light completely went out.” 

This is a brilliant articulation of what many of us feel when we find ourselves victim to depression and other mental illness. Often, our mental health journeys begin when difficult life circumstances result in an over-accumulation of anger, fear, resentment and grief. In the end, this overflow of different emotions can result in us feeling numb, exhausted and maybe even struggling with the desire to carry on with life. Then, when the life circumstances that provoked the depression either change or improve, we are often left still feeling this way, struggling to reconcile and understand why this is the case when we believe there not to be a valid reason or justification.

Stigmatizing Meds

Gaga has also addressed her use of anti-depressant medication:

“I take medication. I’m not saying I feel good because of the medication – I wouldn’t encourage young people to take anti-depressants or mood stabilizers.”

Whilst an individual’s viewpoint and assessment of her own lived experience can never be incorrect, the perspective she offers here is problematic and pays lip-service to a societal stigma on the taking of medication as treatment for mental illnesses. Lady Gaga’s dissuading young people of a helpful, necessary and often live-saving treatment of mental illness is extremely unhelpful for those who may be considering such an option.

As mentioned before, attached to the taking of anti-depressant medication is a significant stigma, one that is promoted by sufferers and non-sufferers alike. Having had this discussion on many occasions with friends and family who have suffered from ill mental-health, I have learnt that often it is seen as a negative thing, or a last resort. This is due to the widespread perspective that if you take anti-depressants and feel better, it’s “not real happiness,” or it’s “not you.” Other friends have reported feeling numb whilst prescribed with them, or even that they felt worse. But the fact is, other treatments, such as talking therapy, can also result in the patient feeling worse; it is all dependent on the individual and what is best for them. Anti-depressants can be life-changing, and the dissuasion of other treatments: cognitive behavioural therapy, counselling, art therapy, or even exercise and a healthy diet would not be seen as valid or acceptable. In summary, if something has the potential to help – consider trying it; it might not be for you, but it might just save the next person’s life.

Pros and cons aside, the influence of a media personality speaking out about mental health must never be underestimated, and Lady Gaga’s bold and unapologetic statements regarding her own battle serve to keep the much-needed mental well-being discussion going.

Stefani Germanotta is an influential mental health advocate. In 2011, she established the Born This Way Foundation in, a non-profit organisation that provides help and resources for victims of bullying, LGBT+ youth and, finally, people who struggle with mental illness and the issues that surround them.

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