In 2008, at age 16, Demi Lovato became a rising star, landing the lead role in Disney Channel’s hit original movie “Camp Rock” alongside the Jonas Brothers, rapidly becoming a teen icon. That same year, she signed a recording deal with Hollywood Records, releasing her debut album “Don’t Forget,” which bowed at No. 2 on the Billboard Top 100. Before the release of the album, Lovato began her own tour, and appeared on the Jonas Brothers’ Burnin’ Up Tour.
Though Lovato’s success was apparent, her internal struggles were largely shielded. In 2011, with a history of drug abuse and self-harm, she entered rehab, where she was diagnosed with bipolar depression. Since her diagnosis, Lovato has been vocal about living with a mental illness and her journey through recovery. She is the spokesperson for Be Vocal, an initiative focused on helping individuals and communities with mental illness advocate for themselves and for others.
Inspired by her own journey with mental health, Lovato recently executive-produced a documentary called “Beyond Silence,” which follows three individuals — Jeff Fink, Lauren Burke, and Lloyd Hale — and their experiences with mental illnesses including bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, depression, and anxiety. Though each of them suffer from very different disorders, they have a common ground of dealing with the setbacks of mental illness, Lovato said.
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“You can hear in the documentary how different they are, but also how alike they are,” Lovato told Variety. “It’s important that we get that message out there because mental health is so important — it’s just important as physical health.”
Lovato worked on the film with photographer and filmmaker Shaul Schwarz, and collaborated with Sunovion Pharmaceuticals and five leading mental health organizations, who nominated Fink, Burke, and Hale to be in the film.
For Lovato, she hopes that the documentary not only educates, but also inspires people to raise awareness and spark conversation about mental health. She aspires to bring to the fore the idea that asking for help and being expressive about one’s mental health is vital for both the process of recovery and thriving while co-existing with mental illness.
“I hope that this film will show people that there is nothing wrong with having a mental health condition,” Lovato says. “If you do have one, you are able to live well and thrive with a mental health condition, if you are able to speak up and be vocal about the things you are going through.”
When asked about her own recovery process, Lovato shared her realization that being vocal about her own struggles resonates deeply with those who suffer from the same or similar conditions, which has inspired her to be so open about her journey.
“There’s something about when you speak out and are vocal about your story, it’s very inviting to others who are dealing with the same thing. And if you can make that impact on somebody’s life, it does something for you spiritually that makes you want to tell the story again and again and again,” Lovato said.
For individuals that don’t have the financial means to enter a facility for recovery, Lovato says that Bevocalspeakup.com provides several pathways for people to obtain the help that they need, whether it’s a hotline, or a list of methods that guide people on how to approach speaking with the people around them.
“It’s very important we create conversations, we take away the stigma, and that we stand up for ourselves if we’re dealing with the symptoms of a mental illness,” Lovato said. “It is possible to live well and thrive with a mental illness.”
Watch the full documentary here.