Lady Gaga’s pipes have earned her six Grammy Awards, 13 MTV Video Music Awards, seven Billboard Music Awards, and an Oscar nomination but behind her beautiful voice is an even more beautiful soul.
When she’s not entertaining her “little monsters” around the world, the “Applause” singer dedicates her time to helping kids of all walks of life through her Born This Way Foundation.
What is the Born This Way Foundation?
Founded by Gaga (real name, Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta) and her mother Cynthia Germanotta in 2012, the Born This Way Foundation (BTWF) is “committed to supporting the wellness of young people and empowering them to create a kinder and braver world.”
Named after her album and hit song, BTWF targets environments in which young people find obstacles (such as schools and communities – online and offline) and achieves its goals by leveraging academic research and partnerships to provide “improved mental health resources, more positive school climates and kinder communities.”
“My daughter and I co-founded Born This Way Foundation five years because we saw a real need,” Cynthia Germanotta told Good Celebrity. “This was also a lifelong passion of hers to help young people that are struggling with issues that she also similarly faced as a young person.
“And as my daughter began touring we heard from young people all over the country and all over the world and they really had the same message: they wanted to feel accepted, they wanted to feel supported, and they wanted to feel empowered,” she said.
According to data from the organization, over 150,000 youths have connected to services and programs in their communities through BTWF.
Putting Their Names (And Faces) Out There
Gaga and her mother aren’t merely attaching their names to the cause, they’re actively involved in raising funds.
Cynthia recently worked at a Starbucks as a “barista-in-training” to promote BTWF’s partnership with the coffee chain in the #CupsOfKindness social media campaign, which helped raise money for the foundation’s Channel Kindness – a youth-led online media program.
Gaga recently surprised a classroom of middle school students as their substitute teacher. The stunt was part of a PSA for Staples and it’s program “Staples for Students,” which supports public education in the U.S. and promotes kindness in schools.
Money raised through the campaign benefits BTWF and DonorsChoose.org. Staples put down an initial donation of $2 million to each cause.
Kind Communities – A Bridge to Youth Mental Wellness
In July 2017, BTWF released the results of a mental health study called “Kind Communities – A Bridge to Youth Mental Wellness.”
“We have to do better on mental health,” Germanotta said. “We have to de-mystify it and destigmatize it and that has to start with improving our understanding of mental health.”
In conjunction with Benenson Strategy Group, a nationwide survey was conducted among youths ages 15-24. Parents and guardians of children in the same age group were also surveyed to determine the gap between the perception of mental health from each side.
“We asked them about their experiences and their perceptions of mental health, as well as their relationships and environments – including their schools, workplaces, home life, and online community – so that we can better understand how everyday interactions and experiences are shaping a young person’s mental and emotional well-being,” Germanotta said.
The results of the survey proved a lot of assumptions about mental health to be true. For instance, kinder environments produced higher mental health scores. 79% of high school students with high scores described their schools as kind compared to 12% with low mental health scores.
Having a close core group of friends is also a plus. 53% of youths leaned on their pals when dealing with an issue of a friend’s drinking problem, while 30% said they’d go to a parent.
The majority of youths polled also prioritized mental health (57%) to physical health (51%) but on the flip side, 54% said they never or rarely talk about it and most of their schools don’t offer classes that focus on the issue.
“These findings can help us more fully understand how we can be working with young people to foster their mental health,” Germanotta said. “It also demonstrates the importances of kindness, which is a basic human value that has a tangible and direct impact on the wellbeing of our young people.”
When it came to comparing the survey results of youths and parents, there was a definitive gap.
71% of parents believe their child will come to them if they are being physically bullied whereas 50% of youth said they would. The survey produced similar results when the question of body issues was raised (66% of parents said their child will talk to them as opposed to 25% of youth who said they would.)
Parents also underestimate the role that stress plays in their child’s lives. One in ten said their child was nervous over the past month while one in four youths reported to feeling nervous all or most of time during that same timeframe.
Germanotta believes the results show that young people care about their health but adults need to be better at providing them with skills and tools to manage it.
Due in part to the results, Born This Way Foundation is launching a five-month tour in collaboration with Lady Gaga’s Joanne World Tour. “The Channel Kindness Tour” will be a series of activations, community events, and youth engagement programming.
“As we travel to cities around the country and beyond, we’ll be in venues and communities working to foster kindness and open a more honest dialogue about mental health,” Germanotta said.
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(Photo Credit: Born This Way Foundation)