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Demi Lovato smiling at a microphone

Demi Lovato Uses Star Power to Fight Stigmas and Advance Opportunities for People with Mental Illness

Demi Lovato smiling wearing a brown top

Demi Lovato

Rockville, Md., Oct. 15 – Pop icon and champion for body positivity Demi Lovato uses her voice to do more than just sing.

Lovato, 25, was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2011 while seeking treatment for an eating disorder, depression and her battle with self-harm.

“It’s important to speak up about the things you believe in, because your voice will be heard no matter what position you’re in,” she shared. “I just happen to be in a position where more people would hear my voice.”

Lovato’s career took off at a very young age. The child star from Dallas, Texas made her first television appearance on Barney and Friends at the age of 10 alongside actress Selena Gomez. In 2007 she auditioned for the Disney television movie Camp Rock as well as the Disney television series Sonny With a Chance. She landed both of the roles. In addition, in the summer of 2008 she began her “Demi Live Warm Up” tour as well as appeared on the Jonas Brothers’ “Burnin’ Up” tour.

In 2011 she announced she would be leaving Sonny With a Chance and took a hiatus from acting. She was diagnosed with depression, an eating disorder and bipolar disorder. It was also during this time that she began to share her story of living with mental illness with her fans and the world.

“Living well with bipolar disorder is possible, but it takes patience, it takes work and it is an ongoing process,” she said in an interview with the Be Vocal Campaign. “The reality is that you’re not a car that goes into a shop and gets fixed right away. Everyone’s process and treatment plan may be different.”

Studies show many people within the Latino and other communities hide their invisible disability due to negative stigmas, but Lovato has chosen to spread awareness and reduce stigma surrounding mental health. It is because of her will to speak out and act as an advocate that she is a wonderful role model to highlight for RespectAbility’s #RespectTheAbility campaign, which is shining a light on individuals with disabilities who are extremely successful in their chosen career.

Fully one-in-five Americans have a disability and polls show that most of them want to work. Yet 70 percent of working-age Americans with disabilities are outside of the workforce. There are 4,869,400 Latinx/Hispanics living with a disability in the U.S. Only 37 percent of working-age Latinx/Hispanics with disabilities are employed in the U.S. compared to 73.9 percent of working-age Latinx/Hispanics without disabilities. Lovato is proof that this does not have to be the norm.

On Sept. 23, 2017, she was named a Global Citizens Ambassador of Mental Health. This winter she will receive the Artistic Award of Courage at The Jane and Terry Semel Institute’s biannual Open Mind Gala, which highlights people who advocate for mental health awareness.

Our nation’s economy is strongest when it is inclusive of the value that diverse talent brings to the workplace. According to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, an estimated 10 million people live with bipolar disorder. When stars like Lovato speak openly about their experiences, the overall stigma often held against those with mental illness begins to lessen. Celebrities like Lovato are making a difference.

Meet the Author

Julia Wood
Julia Wood

Julia Wood is a Communications Fellow at RespectAbility and a senior at Emerson College. She is not stranger when it comes to advocating for people with disabilities. Growing up she advocated for her sister who had Mitochondrial Disease and Leukemia. Previously she volunteered for "Buddy Ball” and “Make-A-Wish.”

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