How Demi Lovato's openness about mental illness helped me through college
Demi Lovato said goodbye to Twitter and Instagram on Monday, saying that she was fed up with all the negativity online and the backlash she got just for speaking her mind. The exact reason why Lovato decided to abandon most social media is unknown, but before she said goodbye to Twitter, she did have a message to followers and fans: “That one time I started my own charity providing mental health care for people who can’t afford it and this is what y’all talk about,” she wrote.
Lovato has a point — in 2013, she created The Lovato Treatment Scholarship in partnership with Cast Recovery, a charity with the mission of providing people suffering from mental illness with treatment. And it has gone relatively by the wayside where the press is concerned. Lovato has continuously lent her voice to support the mentally ill through organizations like Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health and, more importantly, by speaking candidly about her personal experience with mental illness.
I was in college when Demi Lovato revealed that she had been diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2011, following a highly publicized stay in rehab and a very public breakup with the Disney Channel. After a rough first year, I was living in denial, struggling to admit to myself and to those around me that I was depressed. Even after I had the courage to seek treatment at my college health center, I still hesitated with how to deal with my depression, specifically how — or even if — I should tell my close friends. I wanted support, but I felt too ashamed to ask for it. By making her struggle public, Lovato helped me see that I didn’t have to be ashamed. I could listen to “Skyscraper” for everyone in my dorm to hear.
Unlike some celebrities, who give one interview on personal struggles and then move on, Lovato has consistently spoken about her past with self-harm, eating disorders and her bipolar disorder. Instead of pretending that she was cured after her time in rehab, Lovato speaks honestly about relapsing and constantly fighting to stay healthy. “There’s no day off in recovery,” Lovato said at the National Council of Behavioral Health’s Hill Day in 2015.
My own personal experience with depression and mental health is nothing like Lovato’s, and yet, as the only young celebrity willing to open up about her mental health, Lovato immediately became my champion. And it’s a title Lovato has embraced over the years. In her first big interview about her treatment and bipolar diagnosis with ABC News, Lovato said, “The real reason why I’m sitting down with you is to open up the eyes of so many young girls, that it doesn’t have to be this way.”
Lovato’s continued efforts to help those affected by mental illness should be the topic of more conversation. And it shouldn’t take Lovato going on a Twitter rant for us to stop and pay attention. Personally, I’d rather have Lovato off Twitter than have her stop advocating for mental health. Luckily, Lovato won’t be forcing fans to choose. After barely 24 hours away from Twitter, Lovato announced that she was back on social media, tweeting, “F*** this.. I’m back bitches. And I’m coming back more honest than ever.”