Lady Gaga's Mom Says She Didn't Always Realize When Her Daughter Was Struggling With Her Mental Health: 'I Wish I Had Known'
Lady Gaga and her mother Cynthia Germanotta are teaming up to fight the stigma of talking about mental health in kids and teens—and to help parents start the conversation.
Since the beginning of her already storied career, Lady Gaga has made a point to share details of her mental health battles with the world. Because the entertainer is so passionate about the power of storytelling, it's no surprise that she encourages others to share their stories as well. Now, Gaga and her mother, Cynthia Germanotta, have released a collection of inspiring stories from young people all over the globe in a new book called Channel Kindness. The pair founded the Born This Way Foundation in 2012 and named the book after the foundation's digital platform.
The stories detail how young people found their inner strength, prevailed in the face of bullying, started their own social movements, and broke through the stigma that's sadly still attached to mental health. Parents.com recently caught up with Germanotta about the advice she and Gaga have for young people who are struggling to be heard and what she has learned about herself as a mother through this work.
How to Help Kids Feel Heard About Mental Health
In a recent conversation on the book featuring Gaga and her mother, as well as several of the book's contributors, the superstar highlighted that many young people are struggling to be heard by their parents when they bring up their mental health challenges.
"I feel the need to say this because it's real and it's true," says Gaga. "Some people don't have parents that can hear what you're saying, they don't have parents who are willing to listen, and some people don't have parents at all. Not everyone has parents who are compassionate. Some people come out to their parents or they talk about their mental struggles, and their parents kick them out or tell them that they're asking for things that they can't provide."
And that's where parents have a responsibility to step up. "As parents, we can start changing this for ourselves and our children," Germanotta tells Parents.com. "We’ve learned that young people don't share their struggles, because parents don't share their struggles. I know I made that mistake."
Germanotta, who is mom to both Gaga and her younger sister Natali, attributes that mistake to how her generation was raised not to talk about their emotions. "We were expected to be tough and strong and get on with it," she recalls. "So, I didn't know how to model a healthy conversation. I didn't know how to look for warning signs."
How to Have Healthy Discussions About Mental Health
Although she initially had a tough time making space for her daughters' struggles, Germanotta says there were "turning points" that led her to learn to be a better listener.
"Almost everything I've learned has been from my daughters and other young people that I have been speaking with," she says. "People have different ways of telling letting you know they need help. There were some cries from help I would see from my children that made me realize it was more serious than I thought it was. Some difficult struggles my daughter went through made me realize the magnitude of the issue she was facing, and I wish I had known before."
While she might have once responded with "it's hard for me to hear what you're telling me," Germanotta has since come to understand how to validate their emotions. "I am still learning," she admits. "It's made me a better mother."
Why It's So Important to Be Open About Mental Health
Germanotta continues to be inspired—and deeply proud—of her daughters for their strength and speaking their truth. "I'm proud of their talent, but I'm most proud to have two daughters who have huge hearts who are incredibly resilient, and a lot of that they’ve had to learn on their own," she shares.
She admits that she didn't always understand Gaga's choice to be so candid about her struggles. "She made a courageous decision early on in her career to share her story," says Germanotta. "As a parent, I didn't understand that in the beginning. I would ask her, 'Why are you sharing such personal stories with your fans?' She taught me it's not only brave, but it is empowering. It is kind to share your story and encourages others to do the same."
And the power of storytelling is what Germanotta loves so much about Channel Kindness, which features a blank section that encourages young people to begin writing and sharing.
Germanotta hopes to see the book inspire even more young people to share their stories, concluding, "They're all so equally valuable and important."