She’s usually seen taking the stage to sing one of her hit songs, but on Thursday, Demi Lovato addressed an audience at the National Alliance on Mental Illness’s annual conference with a different kind of message for Congress: to pass mental health reform.
“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,” the 22-year-old “Really Don’t Care” singer said to the crowd gathered in Washington.
Sharing her own struggles with bipolar disorder and addiction, Lovato urged lawmakers to act, saying, “We’ve seen increased attention to our country’s broken mental health system over the past few years, but we’ve seen very little action. Today our message is very clear: it’s time for Congress to act for mental health by supporting the passage of a comprehensive mental health bill this year.”
The former Disney star admitted she’s “not a policy expert in any way, shape, or form,” before saying, “but I do know that the basics of comprehensive care make good sense, common sense.”
Lovato was joined onstage by former Rep. Patrick Kennedy (D-R.I.) and Virginia state Sen. Creigh Deeds (D). In an impassioned speech, Kennedy, co-founder of One Mind for Research who disclosed to constituents he had bipolar disorder in 2000, exclaimed, “This is an issue that is a civil rights issue. It’s about the discrimination against our brothers and sisters simply because of the immutable fact that their illness, as immutable as the color of their skin, is the illness of the brain as opposed to an illness of any other organ in the body.”
Deeds was honored for his work on mental illness. Last year, Deeds was injured by his mentally ill son, Gus, who then killed himself. “I’m determined to devote my life and my efforts to change the law, to reduce the likelihood that such tragedies would occur in the future, to discuss mental health openly and honestly in an effort to remove the stigma, and to work to ensure that my son is remembered for who he was and what he did, not how he died,” Deeds said.