In late August, Born This Way Foundation held a luncheon at Lady Gaga’s family restaurant, Joanne Trattoria. The luncheon was held by the foundation to share their latest research regarding kindness, mental health, and the narrative surrounding both topics. Participants sat in a seminar style arrangement where they were able to discuss their opinions and personal experiences with one another in an open, non-judgemental environment. As participant Louie Marinari noted, “when you are in a room full of people who are all there for the same purpose it gives you a chance to express yourself freely and really give your perspective to the topic at hand.”
The luncheon began with Born This Way Foundation Co-Founder, Cynthia Germanotta, discussing the foundation’s findings from research they conducted alongside the Benenson Strategy Group. The study surveyed over 3,000 young people between the ages of 15 and 24 in addition to over 1,000 parents. While the study surveyed participants throughout the nation, we primarily discussed the results pertaining to New York. Through the study, it was found that more than 1 in 5 young people in New York said they feel nervous all or most of the time in the month preceding the survey. Rather than explaining our feelings of nervousness, we instead discussed the different environments those struggling with such feelings are living within. Do they have a supportive homelife? Are they in an environment where discussing their mental health is acceptable? Does their cultural background limit the extent to which they are allowed to express themselves? These are all questions we asked one another and commented on. To my surprise, not everyone has an environment where discussing mental health is accepted. While we assume many parents, schools, and even some of our closest friends are open and willing to discuss topics such as mental illness, many do not. This, in turn, led to the discussion of the stigma that’s in place regarding mental health. Participants discussed how if those experiencing anxiety, depression, etc., are unable to discuss their emotional states, then they may feel as if they’re at fault. This doesn’t come as a surprise, however, as the study revealed that 41% of the university students interviewed expressed they only sometimes discuss mental health with others.
While the event was filled with meaningful and insightful conversation, an event like this is only beneficial if the participants believe the goal of the luncheon was achieved. Previously mentioned participant, Louie Marinari, commented on his overall reaction to the luncheon:
“I would say my overall reaction to the luncheon was positive even though I myself felt very emotional that day. I always felt that people shouldn’t keep things locked up in their head and rather speak freely about whatever it is that they are going through. Too many people commit suicide because of mental health issues. If we show them that it is okay to speak up maybe we could save so many of them. We have to show people that they have a place to go to and that there are people willing to listen!”
From this luncheon, it is important for those who participated and those who didn’t, to acknowledge that these kinds of open conversations can only aid those struggling, as Louie stated. To learn more about the research conducted by Born This Way Foundation and Benenson Strategy Group, visit https://bornthisway.foundation/research-survey/kind-communities-survey/.