Gloria Estefan Shares How She Wrestled With Suicidal Thoughts in Her Teens
By Manuel Betancourt
Gloria Estefan wants you to know you’re not alone. Tackling what the singer called “the biggest mental health crisis of our time,” the latest episode of Red Table Talk: The Estefans featured yet another candid conversation about a topic that unfortunately remains all too taboo.
"We as a family have experienced our own brush with mental health in a variety of ways,” Emily Estefan shared at the top of the episode.
Noting how the episode hit home, Gloria was the first one to share painful memories that she hoped would put into perspective why she thinks talking about mental health is so important. At 15, while she was helping take care of her father, a Vietnam War vet who’d been diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, the “Conga” singer confessed she’d had suicidal thoughts.
“I started having desperation thoughts," she said, before describing the vivid ideas she had about suicide.
Thinking of her loved ones brought Gloria back and made her kept going, eventually finding a way through those dark, desperate thoughts. She said she never spoke about it, for fear of burdening others.
“I didn't want to tell my mother that I was feeling cracks in my armor. I didn't want to tell my grandmother because I didn't want to worry her,” she said.
"Why is it that we never talk about it, right?" Lili Estefan asked, a question that kept coming back throughout the episode, especially once Lili shared her own experience with having lost her mother to suicide.
Also sharing her mental health journey on the show was Lele Pons. The social media influencer and former host of La Voz... México talked about her own experiences coping with her Tourette syndrome and severe obsessive-compulsive disorder.
After years of suffering in silence, Pons most recently opened up about her health earlier this year in her YouTube series, The Secret Life of Lele Pons. Pons, who went to school with Emily, talked at length about how she hopes putting her more vulnerable moments out for others to see will help make others feel less alone -- like she did when she finally met other people living with OCD.
“We're doing this because we're trying to help others. There are so many people who are suffering in silence,” Gloria echoed her at the end of the episode, stressing the importance of what these conversations hope to inspire. “Mental illness has had a stigma for many years and it really shouldn't. Our brain's an important organ and, you know, things happen.”
Whether taking on Lili’s very public divorce or Emily’s coming out, the Estefan family has shown they’re not afraid to wade into uncomfortable territory at the now iconic red table. But they do so with the the hope of letting viewers know that they need to suffer in silence; reaching out and having a conversation with a loved one may well be the best way to begin the process of healing.
"We are hoping that will inspire people to say, 'Let's have our own Red Table Talk tonight at dinner. Is there something you want to talk about? Because you are safe here,'" Emily shared with ET ahead of the show’s launch. "It's creating that safe space for everybody."