Demi Lovato has released five best-selling albums and a slew of hit singles which have won her numerous music awards. But for the 44 million American adults struggling with mental illness, it’s the 24-year-old’s decision to share her own mental health battles that may rank as her most meaningful achievement to date.
“I’ve been very, very open about my story,” said Lovato. “I was diagnosed when I was 18 with bipolar disorder,” a condition shared by roughly 13 million Americans. “And ever since, I’ve been doing whatever I could to raise awareness about mental illness, and mental health, in America.”
Since 2015, Lovato has served as the public face of the “Be Vocal” initiative. It’s a campaign that brings together five national mental health advocacy groups: the Depression and Bipolar Support Alliance, the National Alliance on Mental Illness, the JED Foundation, Mental Health America and the National Council for Behavioral Health.
The goal: to help erase the stigma surrounding mental illness and empower those affected to share their stories and get the help they, or their loved ones, need.
To date, “Be Vocal” has spread its message via a website, televised public service announcements and mental health policy meetings with elected officials.
But the group is now setting its sights on a different medium: to change the image of mental illness through photography.
“Whenever you type into a search engine something like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or something like that, the images that pop [up] are very negative and stereotypical,” Lovato explained. “Pictures of pills, or people with their head in their hands, or someone pulling their hair out.
“So, we found 10 real people living with mental illness, people who are brave enough to let us into their private lives,” Lovato said. “And we got an incredibly talented photographer to take their photographs. And we will make those photographs publicly available and free to use whenever the subject of mental illness comes up in the news.”