Celeb: Recording artist, actress and mental health advocate Demi Lovato. The 22-year-old former “The X Factor” judge was diagnosed with bipolar disorder in 2011.
Cause: The National Day of Action, when approximately 1,500 people will head to the Hill to lobby Congress to pass “a comprehensive mental health bill.” The grass-roots effort was launched Sept. 4 as part of the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s annual four-day convention in Washington.
The 5-foot-3 singer took the stage dressed in a grown-up black blazer. Her only accessory: a lime-green mental health awareness wristband. “Hi everyone — my people,” she chirped.
And who were these people exactly? Moms, dads, brothers and sisters who’ve been directly affected by mental illness in some way. The crowd of hundreds probably couldn’t call up the lyrics to Lovato hits such as “Give Your Heart a Break” and “Heart Attack.” Still, it was Lovato’s job to get them as fired up about lobbying the Hill as their kids and grandkids would be to see the former Disney Channel star in the flesh.
“Those of us here today know that mental illness has no prejudice. It affects people of every race, age, gender, religion and economic status. It doesn’t discriminate between Republicans or Democrats, either,” Lovato said.
Her voice was clear, though she stumbled a few times in her speech, seemingly more nervous in a Marriott ballroom than in a massive arena. She used “us” and “we” often, shifting the spotlight only when describing her own struggles with mental illness. How she self-medicated with drugs and alcohol to feel “normal, not better but normal.” She described her bipolar diagnosis as “a relief in so many ways.”
Admitting that she was “in no way shape or form” a policy expert, Lovato repeatedly underscored one simple message: “It’s time for Congress to act. This year.” That’s when a familiar thing happened: The crowd got on its feet.
Sound bite: “I want to show the world that there is life — surprising, wonderful, unexpected life — after diagnosis.”
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