Lady Gaga's mother says singer was "Taunted, isolated" by depression

November 1, 2019
Los Angeles Times
By Christi Carras | Staff Writer | Oct 23, 2019 |10:27 AM
Lady Gaga “went through a lot of difficult times,” says her mother.(Michele Crowe / CBS via Getty Images)

Lady Gaga has been an outspoken celebrity advocate for mental health, inspiring fans with her journey from bullied child to award-winning global superstar. But at the start of her battle with anxiety and depression, she was just a regular kid who needed her mom.

“As a parent I wasn’t prepared to really address this,” said Gaga’s mother, Cynthia Germanotta, on “CBS This Morning.” “She went through a lot of difficult times — humiliated, taunted, isolated. ... She went from a very happy and aspirational young girl to somebody who started to question her self-worth.”

Wednesday’s “Stop the Stigma” event marked the first time “CBS This Morning” has featured a live studio audience. Hosted by Gayle King, Anthony Mason and Tony Dokoupil, the broadcast included a variety of special guests who have been affected in some way by mental illness — from Gaga’s mother to “Queer Eye” culture expert Karamo Brown — to spread awareness.

In 2012, Gaga and her mother co-founded the Born This Way Foundation, which empowers young people to practice mental and emotional wellness. Germanotta now provides others with tools and advice to help their loved ones who are suffering as the “Shallow” singer once did.

“It can also cause feelings of guilt, of helplessness, not knowing how to help my daughter,” Germanotta said. “One of the most difficult things for me as a parent was understanding what is normal and what is not normal. ... The most important thing that they can do is really listen and understand. What I learned from our daughter is to listen and validate her feelings.”

Throughout the morning special, several stars, experts, activists and audience members detailed their own experiences with mental illness. Brown, who encourages participants on “Queer Eye” to conquer their demons, opened up about his past grappling with depression and suicidal thoughts.

“For me it was waking up and feeling like the sun just wasn’t shining as bright as it was the day before,” he said. “It felt like, I can’t get out of bed, as if I was alone, as if things weren’t going to get better. ... That progressively got worse and worse and worse.”

A common theme throughout the discussions was the power of finding strength in community and access to help. Multiple times, help-line numbers appeared across the bottom of the screen to underscore the abundance of options — even for those like Brown, who once thought mental health treatment was only for “rich, white people.”

“I started to try to find the help, educate myself and find support systems,” he said. “Let them know ... the physical wound is in my mind or in my heart.”

Also among the interviewees were Jane Pauley, host of “CBS Sunday Morning,” who has bipolar disorder; Dr. Ken Duckworth, medical director of the National Alliance on Mental Illness; Dr. Sue Varma, a fellow of the American Psychiatric Association; and Miana Bryant, founder of nonprofit the Mental Elephant, which focuses on mental health on college campuses.

All the hosts wore green ribbons to show their solidarity and encouraged applause in the studio to send “a message to everyone watching that it is OK not to be OK.”

“At first, I was a little uncomfortable with the applause,” King admitted to viewers at the top of the segment. “I get the applause now. We are breaking the silence.”

Wednesday’s live experiment comes about two years after scandal rocked the long-running morning program. Sexual misconduct allegations ejected Charlie Rose from his anchor role in spring 2018, followed by a decline in ratings, which had grown during his stint. A new studio audience format could be part of an effort to boost the daily news show’s viewership, which has lagged behind its counterparts on ABC and NBC for years.

“We are very excited about this because we’ve never done anything like this before,” King said of the venture.

This week’s “CBS This Morning” visitors will include former President Bill Clinton; singer-songwriter Lauv, “The Talk” co-host Sharon Osbourne; Afghanistan War veteran Jason Kander; pop artist Noah Cyrus; “You Oughta Know” hitmaker Alanis Morissette, who has discussed her battles with postpartum depression; and Klas Bergling, founder of the Tim Bergling Foundation and father of the late Avicii. On Monday’s program, Bergling gave his first U.S. interview since the Swedish DJ died by suicide last year.

“This is a conversation that makes a lot of people uncomfortable,” King said. “Nobody wants to really acknowledge it. We’re going in today.”



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