“It doesn’t have to take over your life, it doesn’t have to define you as a person, it’s just important that you ask for help.”
Photo courtesy of Isaac Sterling
Four years ago, Demi Lovato revealed she'd been diagnosed with Bipolar disorder upon checking into a rehabilitation facility. After staying quiet about her issues with depression, addiction, and mental illness for so long, Lovato is no longer silent. And now, she's making it her mission to know that no one else should be silent, either.
The platinum artist recently teamed up with a new campaign called Be Vocal that is encouraging people to speak out about their struggles with mental illness as a way to eliminate negative stigmas and increase awareness nationwide. The initiative is also lobbying Congress to take legislative steps to help make mental health a part of our nation's larger conversations and laws.
Before heading to Capitol Hill on Monday, Lovato spoke with BuzzFeed on the phone about her journey so far. Here's what she had to say:
BuzzFeed: When was the moment you realized you needed to get help?
Demi Lovato: I basically had a break down, went to rehab, and it was then that I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder. On average, it takes about 10 years for people to get properly diagnosed and find the right treatment plan for whichever mental illness they have. For me, I spent so many years struggling with depression and bipolar depression and I couldn't figure out why I was so sad, depressed, lonely, and just unhappy overall. I was the star of my own TV show and I was on tour; I had this seemingly awesome life but I was still struggling. When I got the right diagnosis it was almost like a relief to me that I could pinpoint what was going on and work on the solution.
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Why is it important for people to start thinking about mental health similarly to the way we think about physical health?
DL: Mental illnesses aren't looked at like physical illnesses and the problem with that is our brain is actually the most complex organ in our body; it's a very important organ and if we don't treat this like a physical illness, the problems aren't going to be solved. It takes a long time to figure out what works best for you, you can't just put a stamp on it. There are insurance companies that only pay for specific coverage plans and for a short amount of time. They fail to think about mental illnesses as if they're causing physical harm, which really only ends up hurting us more.
What's the most meaningful fan response you've gotten from dealing with mental health issues publicly?
DL: There are so many stories that people have shared with me; fans feel like they can confide in me when they feel like they can't confide in other people. The thing that makes me the happiest is when I have fans tell me that they asked for support and they have gone to their parents or to their guidance counselors at school, or whoever it is, that they've spoken out about what they're dealing with and therefore they're able to do what I wish I would've done, which is gotten help sooner.
What have you learned about yourself throughout this whole process?
DL: This journey has been quite a ride. I am very grateful that I have been able to get the help and support that I need, especially since 4 out of 10 people are able to get mental health care. You have to think, what about the other six? The more conversations we have will raise awareness and support; for every story that you tell, the more I've told my story, the more people it's affected in a positive way. Stories inspire people to get help and to look at mental illnesses in a less negative way. It's equally as important to speak up about it as it is to get help.
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