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Discovering Mental Health First Aid through Lady Gaga, Born This Way Foundation

When John Martinez lost his partner in the June 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, he turned to music – Lady Gaga in particular. Her song with a tangible coping strategy, “Marry the Night,” was his ray of light, his beacon of hope (“Orlando-Shooting Trauma Victim Finds Solace In Lady Gaga Music, Foundation,” November 7, 2017, Hartford Courant).

The prelude to “Marry the Night” reads:

“Clinical psychology tells us arguably that trauma is the ultimate killer. Memories are not recycled like atoms and particles in quantum physics. They can be lost forever. It’s sort of like my past is an unfinished painting and as the artist of that painting I must fill in all the ugly holes, and make it beautiful again.”

The song itself teaches listeners to marry the bad in your life instead of ignoring it. Recognize that it is part of your life so you can integrate and learn to live with it rather than spending negative energy on pushing it away.

As much as Lady Gaga’s words resonated with him, they weren’t enough. He became depressed, lost his job, apartment and turned to living in his car. Upon returning to Waterbury, Conn., where most of his family currently resides, he came across a flyer to sign up for a Mental Health First Aid course.

It was his desire to help others experiencing similar mental health challenges, in addition to Lady Gaga’s Born This Way Foundation’s central message of the importance of mental health awareness, that inspired him to sign up.

“You’re getting trained as a better person in society,” said John. “It’s something that everybody should have, just to help out your brother or co-worker.”

Now, John has the tools to identify if someone is grieving or experiencing depression. He also learned about himself through the training.

Mental Health First Aid’s goal is to achieve exactly that. Those who become trained in Mental Health First Aid will learn how to help themselves as well as a friend or peer in need. It is a program that teaches risk factors and warning signs of mental health and substance use concerns, strategies for how to help someone in both crisis and non-crisis situations and where to turn for help.

Mental Health First Aid fits into everyday life – and enriches it. It helps you in the roles you already play in people’s lives: to be a better, more prepared partner, friend, colleague, parent and teacher.