British supermodel and activist Adwoa Aboah says she hit rock bottom in 2014 when she walked out of rehab and tried to take her own life.
The model, who was named the British Fashion Model of the Year in 2017 and has worked for top fashion houses and brands such as Burberry, Calvin Klein, Chanel, Dior, Giorgio Armani, Marc Jacobs, Revlon and Miu Miu, had long struggled with mental health and addiction issues and everything came crashing down.
“Why do things have to get to such rock bottom before we start thinking about it?” Aboah mused to moderator Audrey Gelman at the Women in the World summit in New York.
“It wasn’t just the substances. I had stopped talking about what was going on in my life.”
Aboah said that, while she came from a loving family, there was “no space” to talk about mental health at home or at school, where she was often the target of racist taunts as the child of an English mother and a Ghanaian father.
“Teenage experimentation became this sort of masking and façade of how I was going to cover up any emotions I was going through and what I was feeling,” Abdoah explained.
“It added up to manic depression and anxiety.”
Her own emotional struggles inspired Abdoah to co-found Gurls Talk, which acts as a social platform for young girls and women to discuss an array of topics and experiences in a safe and judgement-free space. Aboah says her advocacy is planted firmly in working to eradicate the stigma of mental health.
She wanted girls to be able to talk about sexuality, mental health and body image issues. She wanted nothing to be taboo or any subject off limits.
“I needed something like Gurls Talk when I was at school,” said Aboah. “My problems were big enough to talk about.”
After she got sober and left London for L.A. (she now lives in New York), Abdoah soon realized that it doesn’t matter where you go in the world, problems are universal.
“The circumstances were different, but the conversations were the same.”
In 2018, Gurls Talk launched a Podcast, which has covered topics such as grief and addiction.
And while Abdoah says started Gurls Talk online it is offline that the platform has “blossomed”. She’s even taken it to Ghana, a moving experience for a woman who said growing up “I wasn’t white enough and I wasn’t black enough”.
“I want to create beautiful conversations and I want girls to feel they’re not alone in the world.”
Additional reporting by Arielle Swedback.
If you or anyone you know needs help, reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline 1-800-273-TALK (8255)