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Cynthia Germanotta, known to most of the world as Lady Gaga's mom, is sitting in the lobby of a glitzy Sacramento Sheraton hotel. A few hours from now, her daughter will play a sold-out show a mile from here as part of her Joanne world tour.
But right now, Germanotta — who's dressed impeccably in a smart blazer, black skirt, and gold hoop earrings — just wants to talk about something called Mental Health First Aid.
The eight-hour training, often described as "CPR for the mind," helps people identify signs of mental illness and addiction in order to offer appropriate support and resources. When Germanotta took the class, she walked away feeling confident she could better spot the symptoms of psychological distress or crisis and shared the experience with her daughter. Together they decided they wanted to provide the same skills and information to as many people as possible.
"To us, [the training] is so vitally important because there's still a very large stigma around mental health, and around talking about it and providing help for people who are experiencing a mental health crisis,"
says Germanotta, who is the president and cofounder of Born This Way Foundation.
The course is a guide to the risk factors and warning signs of mental health problems. It also rejects the stigma and stereotypes commonly associated with mental illness. Instead, the training gives participants the nonjudgmental language to ask about signs of distress and the know-how to follow-up with support and resources.
The Mental Health First Aid course offered on Gaga's tour is designed to help adults talk to youth about their mental health. The subject touches both Germanotta and her daughter in deeply personal ways.