Demi Lovato reverses the stigma of mental health for fans


SAMHSA via Wikipedia Commons

Demi Lovato after speaking at the 2013 SAMHSA event for National Children’s Mental Health Day.

Lauren Puthoff, Opinion Editor

Many celebrity secrets do not remain hidden for long, especially with crazed fans and obsessive media. But no one talks about what happens to celebrities when the paparazzi becomes too much. The stress of being a public figure can lead many people to rely on substances to keep up with the lifestyle. 

Demi Lovato started their career on Disney Channel by starring in the movie “Camp Rock” and having their own television show, “Sonny With A Chance.” Before their career took off, they struggled with depression, bulimia and their father’s substance addiction. In 2008, Lovato went on tour with the Jonas Brothers as their opening act, but as the tour continued Lovato began to struggle keeping a squeaky-clean life and started hiding their true emotions. 

As their life started to unravel with the increase in fame and media attention, they quickly became addicted to hard drugs and alcohol to mask the daily pain. When friends, family and fans around Lovato noticed the harmful behaviors and personality changes, they instantly became worried for Lovato’s safety. After their first time in rehab, they stayed sober for six years but then relapsed and overdosed due to the stress of their managed lifestyle. Since then, Lovato has been through rehab  two more times and has been completely sober since 2018. 

Senior Taylor Buhr grew up watching Disney Channel and has followed Lovato’s journey. “Through the years Demi Lovato has been in many different movies and TV shows that I watched while growing up, so I’ve always known who they were. When I found out they had many struggles with mental health and addiction, it was very powerful to see how they got through them,” she stated. “All of their struggles were very public because they are very well-known, but I think the way they handled everything set a great example for everyone who looks up to them.”

Although many know Lovato as one of the many Disney stars to resort to drug use from the stress of childhood fame, there is an even larger number that sees them as an inspiration. Young adults have an idol, a person they look up to and aspire to be, but what they see in the media is not always the truth. 

Celebrities have the ability to portray themselves as perfect people when, in reality, they have the same struggles as anyone else. When kids see their inspirations living seemingly perfect lives, they push down every emotion and hide how they feel. The moment Lovato came out to the world with their mental health story, addiction struggles and sexuality, their fans finally realized they were not alone in their struggles. 

The inspiration Lovato has had on the world is incomparable, but their impact and advocacy for the teenage community is monumental. Many teenagers do not vocalize the feelings they have, whether they are harmful or not, due to a fear of judgment from their peers. Instead of communicating with loved ones or a trusted adult, they find other, often unhealthy ways of combating the ever-changing emotions.

As Lovato did, many teenagers resort to substance abuse – whether that is through drugs, alcohol or anything else – all for the sole purpose of blocking out the pain. Even though many substances are illegal for teenagers, it does not stop those looking for a break from their daily life. 

A student at PV, who has chosen to remain anonymous, has struggled with the stress of high school, “I have dealt with mental health issues, and when I started high school, everything just got worse. As much as I tried therapy, it still felt as though I was in a constant state of dread, which led me to trying new ways to combat my emotions. I never expected to rely heavily on a substance to escape reality, but there was no other way,” they said. 

This student has received professional help for the struggles they were facing and has since then improved in their mental health journey, “I wanted a way to stop the pain and stress of being the perfect student or child and just live my life without concern, but that’s not reality. With a lot of hard work and time I am proud to say that I no longer rely on substances to create my picture-perfect world, instead I am living it”

High school is a world of its own. With the never-ending homework assignments and pop quizzes, it feels as though students have no way to prepare themselves for success. Their lives consist of hours of homework, test prep and consistently wondering whether or not they are good enough. As duties and responsibilities start to build up, it becomes more difficult for students to find a way to manage it all. 

No matter how often adults offer assistance or a listening ear, teenagers are very reluctant to speak about their issues. This is mainly due to the fact that mental health awareness has only recently become a topic many in the public eye are vocal about. As more people begin sharing their stories, it makes it easier for others to share their own experiences.

PV counselor Leslie Spiller works closely with kids as they go through their high school journey, “Students think they are the only ones struggling, which is not the case. We as counselors get an inside look into what students are struggling with regularly. Although every person is unique there are clear similarities between them all,” she explained. “The first step is figuring out a way to let stress out in small doses. We all carry stress but we all need to let our stress out so it doesn’t overpower us. Whether it is being with positive friends, exercising, participating in a hobby or finding a passion one has.”

As an advocate for children’s mental health, Lovato has become a key speaker and inspirational figure for the mental health community. They have motivated others to open up about their struggles or be a listening ear for a friend. The community Lovato has created with their celebrity status has made mental health a more prominent topic of conversation and has created an environment of love and acceptance.

Celebrities are looked up to by teenagers and younger kids across the world. The idea that these stars need to keep a clean personality is exactly what leads them into the world of substances. By talking about the struggles celebrities face, it allows the fans to truly see they are not as different as they may seem. 

If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse reach out for confidential, free help at 1-(800)-662-4357