TW: Mention of suicide, mental health
English-French actress, model, humanitarian and activist Gabriella Wright is also the co-founder of ‘Never Alone’ global campaign. At a time when the world is talking about depression, mental health and suicide, Gabriella Wright interacts with Raaz Dheeraj Sharma, a user of Youth Ki Awaaz, about her campaign, mental health, meaning of life, her career, the glamour world and more.
Raaz Dheeraj Sharma (RD): Our way of living is changing and has become different than usual for every individual during the pandemic. How are you spending your days during this difficult period?
Gabriella Wright (GW): I am recreating home at home. In other words, I am finding ways to experience inner peace at all times. It was very easy for me to escape and travel for work purposes, or for any other excuse. I had my portable inner home that allowed me to be everywhere and feel at home. The irony is now to experience my inner home in my physical home. I meditate daily, write, and try to be as helpful as possible to those in need, even if it’s just by a phone call or deep intention.
RDS: COVID-19 is not only affecting our physical health, but also our mental health, and people are still not ready to discuss mental illness. What are your views on corona and its effects on mental health?
GW: The tsunami of a pending mental health crisis is yet to come. We have dived into the deepest pandemic of our times with COVID-19 – it is questioning our state of existence and impermanence, and we are experiencing our own uncertainty and inner instability, which can only result in, if not taken care of, a deep scar of loneliness leading to depression and constant anxiety.
RDS: People are spending this lockdown period in self-introspection and giving themselves time to understand the meaning and purpose of life. What is the best way to understand the meaning of life?
GW: I think the best way to understand the meaning of life is by experiencing our connectedness. The beautiful side-effect of COVID-19 is that all over the world, we are experiencing the same feeling of helplessness. The virus is uncontrollable, and just like life, we cannot control life; but we can witness life, we can witness how we all want the same thing in life, and this is the experience of Love — through tender actions and the beauty of sharing presence with each other.
The meaning of life is to be an embodiment of ‘love in action’. We have this precious human body, how can we value our lives and enhance our roles? I truly believe that if we can be Love, we shall experience not only our life differently, but even our view of reality differently. We shall be able to carry out our dharma with ease, and realise that the true purpose of life and meaning is to experience each other’s presence and alleviate each other’s suffering.
RDS: Share with us something about your ‘Never Alone’ Project.
GW: ‘Never Alone’ is a global mental health and mental well-being movement I’ve co-created with Dr Deepak Chopra and Poonacha Machaiah. We decided that the campaign was much needed after realising that every 40 seconds someone dies by suicide in the world. There is deeper suffering in this world and it is the basis of our relationship with this reality. We are in a deep need to change the narrative of mental health and destigmatise need for mental health so that we can help one another with practical ways to ease our relationship with one another and the lives we live.
During COVID, we organised a free three-day global mental health summit with over 105 speakers to help the community with practical tools to help one through these times. The speakers included Deepak Chopra, Patrick Kennedy and Russel Brand among others, who gave practical views and tools for us to navigate our own worlds during these times. It is still free and online on demand. Please use these resources at www.neveralonesummit.live.
RDS: In the era of digitalisation, despite having so many online friends and followers, why are people still alone? Is there any difference between loneliness and being alone?
GW: I would need a whole life to answer this question, there are several things to look at in this question. First of all, we are in a new era of communication, and technology is only to be more invasive and present in our lives. The real question is: why do we feel the need to present ourselves to the world of internet in a certain way?, why do we need to show our shadows instead of our true selves?, and why are we pushed to be artificial and believe the layers of illusion that people show as a collective on the internet and social media?
The answer is in the questions of why we feel so insecure, and why does the illusion of having a following make us feel less lonely. Loneliness is a deep divide within, a deep sense of separation with our true self, our loved ones and the sense of reality. It is a deep alienation from within to our extended life. Being alone is experiencing our true self in our body, and finding peace in our infinite selves and our infinite nature, as we are truly a reflection of one another. Why our movement is called ‘Never Alone’ is because when we go deep within and become the human explorers of our own self. We experience a deeper connection that goes beyond our physical form, and our physical intersection with people and places. We experience a deep relationship that becomes the most important relationship of all, the relationship to our infinite nature, our own consciousness that is intrinsically the connection to all of us.
RDS: As per WHO, close to 800,000 people take their own life in the world every year. Where is the problem? Is losing human touch and connection the biggest problem?
GW: If I had the answer, I would have brought out my magic wand and extended my wish for all of us to heal immediately. There are several factors for this problem, but the most important factor is related to the deep up-rootedness we experience with who we are, our self-identity, self-image layered with overwhelming emotional conditions, and also mental illness. There is never one reason. We are multi-dimensional beings with ‘diversity’ as the essence of our true nature. I do feel that because of the extreme lockdowns all over the world, we are experiencing and realising that we are more isolated that we thought we were. The extreme is the isolation in our minds. We need to listen to each other deeply and patiently, so that we can hear the silence behind our words.
RDS: You have been to Asian countries including India and Nepal. What kind of similarities did you find between the Orient and the Western cultures?
GW: The only similarity is that we are humans walking this earth, and we all want is safety, a home and experiencing love. The Western culture is laced with an urgency of productivity, and this sense of consumerism is unfortunately pervading everywhere. My favorite countries are Nepal and India. Why? Because here, time is slower, strangers are kinder, and there is a deep sense of worship and offering to a greater source than one’s own life. The fact that there are prayers and incense constantly burning at almost every corner in Kathmandu is so beautiful, but also so calming. It’s just magical. The sense of worshiping the nature is much more prominent in Asian cultures. Rituals that surpass our own ‘self” and being of service are the greatest gift, which Asian cultures can lead and inspire the West to do more of.
RDS: Nature is the beautiful gift of God. Are humans becoming the biggest enemy of the Nature?
GW: Humans do not realise the precious gift that we walk on everyday. Nepal is a beautiful witness and the womb of the grand chain of the Himalayas. I have never seen such beauty in my life. I bow down to such presence, because in my eyes, it is the gift from God and every mountain and valley, lake and ocean is the constant offering we are given to survive with. We must not take it for granted. It would be a shame to pollute our mountains and rivers with plastic and other pollutants. At the end of the day, we are killing our own selves with the intake of micro plastics that are almost present in all packaged water or food items. We must see that everything in Nature is inter-dependent. We are not separate from nature, we are nature.
RDS: Black Lives Matter is trending all over the world. Now some people are saying that this protest is discriminatory as All Lives Matter. What is your response? Why are people becoming violent instead of promoting peace and humanity?
GW: There are several notions here. First of all, we are experiencing a huge economic crisis. Violence comes from frustration and a lack of means. Where I live here in the USA, most protests have been peaceful and supportive to all communities, but the media wants to underline the violence.
My response is simple. In most western countries, unfortunately, we have very deep systemic racism engrained in our institutions, our governments and our ways of creating our society. We have not had the courage to change these systems since colonialism, which has brought out a nature of dominance in all places of the world.
We must always support those in need, question our privileges, and find peaceful ways to demonstrate and truly change our inner views. Global change comes from individual change, and no government or institution can give you that power. The power is within, the zest and thrill for the life you want to live comes from you. Policies and laws shall change if enough people become conscious at an individual level and deliberately.
RDS: What do you enjoy the most, acting or activism? According to you, which is the best movie?
GW: I love both! My life is entangled with both activism and acting. Earlier in my career, I was trying different things, roles and media. Obviously, having an acting career is good to get a platform where you can voice your opinion and raise awareness. I can definitely say that had I not been an actress, I would have been working in international politics or with the UN.
I have a deep sense of service, in a way where I truly feel, what else is there to do anyway? It’s better to help people than just sit around and do nothing. I am a working mother. I was able to sustain a humanitarian activity all those years and also be an explorer. In my own way, I live a perfect life. I believe my best movie is yet to come. The final version of my film I am Never Alone will be released hopefully by end of this year, and Hitman Bodyguard 2, a fun action film you might enjoy, will be out in August 2021.
RDS: We all have this perception that those in this glamorous world are often alone and depressed. What are your views on that?
GW: Some are and some are not. The truth is that money and castles can’t buy you happiness. This is written in every scripture, every religion and every tradition. Material and wealth can help but it’s not the way to enlightenment or liberation from suffering. We can all experience loneliness no matter what our ‘status’ is. Glamour is an illusion like everything else. As Shakespeare said,
“All the world’s a stage,
And all the men and women merely players;
They have their exits and their entrances;
And one man in his time plays many parts,”
We have to go beyond our identities. Remember that this life is a stage and we are all actors in this dream. Let’s awaken from the suffering together.
About the author: Raaz Dheeraj Sharma writes on different issues and interacts with renowned personalities and motivators.