Demi Lovato: ‘People with mental illness are actually more likely to harm themselves’

Demi Lovato went public with her bipolar diagnosis in 2011. She’s also been an outspoken advocate (in just about every interview) for self acceptance and body image. She’s now an spokesperson for the group Be Vocal: Speak Up for Mental Health. As part of her advocacy for the mentally ill, she did an interview with MSNBC earlier this week. She also met with legislators yesterday on Capitol Hill as part of the National Council for Behavioral Health’s Hill Day. On MSNBC, Demi made the important point that mentally ill people are more likely to harm themselves than others. This is especially timely in the wake of the shooting in Oregon. Many people have pointed out that the discussion should focus around gun control, not mental illness. Here’s some of what Demi told MSNBC, and you can see the video of her interview below:

During an appearance on “MSNBC Live With Tamron Hall” on Monday, the singer explained she’s tired of the national discussion surrounding mental illness that inevitably flares up in the aftermath of a tragedy such as the school shooting.

“Well, unfortunately, we’ve had several instances where mental health has been brought to the attention by the media because of these tragedies,” she said. “I think it’s really important to remember that people with mental illness are actually more likely to inflict harm on themselves and become the victim rather than be the perpetrators.”

I think that the more that you’re vocal for yourself and for others the more people can help you. That’s why it’s so important that you speak up.

Lovato also spoke of her own battle with mental illness, explaining that she suffered from “bits of mania and also bipolar depression.”

“That was the main thing that really got me. And I was lonely, I was sad, I was miserable, and I couldn’t figure out why, because I was on top of the world it felt like, but yes, I was struggling with it. And I want to do whatever I can to help others,” she said.

Lovato, who previously visited Capitol Hill in September 2014 and urged lawmakers to pass mental health reform, returns to the nation’s capital again on Tuesday where she will make a similar plea to Congress as part of the National Council for Behavioral Health’s Hill Day.

[From Huffington Post]

As much as Lovato grates, she does speak out for important causes that are close to her and I give her credit for that. She also gave an interview to People Magazine this week where she made the eloquent point that mental illness should not be a taboo subject, and that “the brain is actually the most complex organ in your body. We need to treat it like a physical illness and take it seriously.”

Lovato also opened up about her complicated relationship with her father, who was bipolar and schizophrenic. He died 2013 and Lovato started a charity in his honor. She explained “The estranged relationship that I had with my father really affected my life growing up, and it was because he was untreated.” In her new album, Confident which is out October 16, Lovato has a song about her dad called “Father.” She previously addressed her relationship with her father in 2011′s “For The Love of a Daughter.

Oh and Demi did a no-makeup, naked photoshoot for Vanity Fair. You can see those NSFW pictures and hear Demi’s explanation for this shoot (“it’s empowering, you can overcome the obstacles of body image issues“) in this video. It’s very Kardashian of her, but her explanation does elevate it a bit.

Here’s Demi’s interview with MSNBC. She explained that it takes around 10 years to get a diagnosis and that only 4 our of 10 people are getting the treatment that they need.

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30 Responses to “Demi Lovato: ‘People with mental illness are actually more likely to harm themselves’”

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  1. Pandy says:

    She’s right of course. Kudos to her for being an informed spokesperson/role model.

  2. Lovely says:

    I respect her for this. There is nothing worst than battling with your own mind. I’m glad she’s bringing awareness to this.

  3. Kat says:

    She’s telling the absolute truth. Honesty and advocacy for mentally ill people is so very needed, as well as easy (and free) access to health professionals and medications.

  4. bettyrose says:

    Yup. I have always made this point. It can’t repeated enough.

    The NRA really isn’t qualified to diagnose mental health, and we need to stop letting them drive the conversation on violence, you know?

    • Erinn says:

      I just passed the course needed for my PAL last week. On the form I filled out, they ask about your current/past partners, job loss, whether you’re depressed or have been treated for depression or other behavioral disorders in the past 5 years. It’s a ton of personal information to fill out, and you need two references, and someone to sign off on your photo you submit.

      That being said – there’s no reason people can’t just say ‘no’ to any of the questions, and if they have no other red flags, they’re not going to know any differently.

      And even then – the vast majority of gun related death in Canada is from suicides. And honestly, I tend to think we have a lot more availability to mental health help than American’s do. So I’m glad to see Demi standing up to point that out. More and more attention needs to be brought to mental health, which will help reduce so many problems across the board – not just relating to shootings.

    • Shambles says:

      “The NRA really isn’t qualified to diagnose mental health, and we need to stop letting them drive the conversation on violence, you know?”

      Perfectly put, BettyRose. This, all day.

      I love her for making this point. Any work that goes toward erasing the stigma around mental illness is work well done.

    • Bridget says:

      Well they’ve clearly put a lot of time and effort into working to improve mental health care, since it’s an issue that’s so important to them.

      Oh wait.

  5. Brittney B. says:

    It’s true. They’re also FAR more likely to be victimized by others — including the police — than they are to inflict harm on anyone else.

  6. Embee says:

    Demi deserves kudos for her work in mental health and also in actively managing her disease. In addition to destigmatizing mental illness (or maybe as a result thereof) we need to have a better mechanism to get treatment for those who are in denial.

    In my personal and professional life I see far too many incidents of violence and intimidation and harassment by those who are mentally ill but refuse treatment. I have all the compassion in the world for someone suffering from mental illness, but when the organ responsible for making good decisions is affected/impaired by the illness, we need to find a way to help. And a 72 hour hold (if you can get one, which is often difficult/impossible) is insufficient for meaningful diagnosis/treatment.

  7. Whitney says:

    She’s absolutely correct and seems informed, which is a nice change of pace from all the celebrity ‘spokespeople’ who have no idea what they’re talking about.

  8. unknownme says:

    My daughter is diagnosed with BiPolar 2, depression and obsessive personality disorder tho she really has been told she is not a textbook of any of these. She has tried to kill herself twice, mainly because the meds she was on were 4x the dosage she needed and they messed with her mind. Last time she was in Psych ER, a young mom was there who was BiPolar and Schizophrenic, she turned herself in after turning her 8 year old son into the police, she felt she would kill him. She got admitted and I didn’t know what happened to her until a month later I saw her on tv for actually killing her son-to protect him from the devil that would hurt him. My neighbor’s nephew has same diagnosis-he had issue with his meds and she had to go running to her sister’s to protect her from her son who was naked thinking he was Jesus while trying to kill her, again to save her from the devil. I really think people are more apt to harm themselves more than others based on what I saw in the hospital the two times there but I do think more needs to be done for mental health and do agree it should not be a taboo subject.

  9. raptor says:

    I can’t help it. I have a soft spot for Demi. I had an undiagnosed mental illness until I was 22; once I received a diagnosis and treatment, a lot of the problems I had been having made more sense, and I began to feel more settled.

    Was there a recent shooting in Colorado, or is this the one in Oregon?

  10. M.A.F. says:

    John Oliver did a nice report about metal illness on Sunday.

  11. Lilacflowers says:

    May she be well and continue to advocate.

    As for those politicians who rushed to scream that the most recent shootings were mental health issues and not gun control issues, your own very visible records on funding for mental health treatment prove that you are just spouting NRA propaganda and do not care about helping the mentally ill

    • Sam says:

      It’s very hard to “help” the mentally ill in America. We have insanely strong civil liberties laws that, by and large, mean that no sick person can be compelled into treatment if they don’t want. Normally, those laws are not bad things. But when it comes to mental health, they’re lousy. A large number of mass shooters had very long, documented histories of mental illnesses with violent tendencies (the Virginia Tech shooter had a long history of being fascinated by violent media and constantly had violent ideation; the Sandy Hook shooter fixated on murder and violence). But right now, there are no laws that allow a neutral 3rd party to step in and say “You present with a ton of risk factors for possible violence, so we’re stepping in to compel you to get some treatment/go to a secure facility/etc.” You can’t do that today in America, with some very narrow exceptions.

      That’s the biggest kind of mental health reform we actually need. The vast majority of mentally ill people will never pose of a violent risk to others. We’re discussing a small minority that do.

      ETA: I do have to laugh when people talk about keeping guns out the hands of the “dangerous mentally ill.” What does that mean, exactly? Anybody who’s ever been to a therapist? What about anybody who has a prescription for a psychoactive drug? Do you have to have been institutionalized? Would it be a certification – if so, who does it? Can a single therapist do it? What’s the diagnostic criteria for “dangerous mentally ill?” How does that work, exactly? Would such a restriction impact the rates of mentally ill people seeking treatment? Would it discourage anyone from getting treatment? How would we know? These are questions I always wind up having to ask when my friends say this stuff and it always turns out there’s not much thought behind it, since nobody seems to ever have considered the questions.

  12. Birdix says:

    The Oregon shooter’s story (and Newtown) must make things hard for parents of kids with Aspergers. It’s hard enough already, without other parents looking at you sideways, suspicious that your kid will be violent.

  13. Josefa says:

    I’ve never been a fan of Lovato, but I’ve always admired her charity work. She’s well informed and seems very passionate about making a change for the better. No shade from me, keep on going Demi!

  14. Sam says:

    I’m bipolar myself, and I’m always of slightly two minds about this stuff.

    Yes, I know very well that the mentally ill are far more likely to harm themselves than others. That’s a provable, documented fact. But there is a small minority out there of us who do place other people at risk. And it seems like when that small minority does act, they tend to act big and inflict a lot of damage. For example, although mental illness is not implicated in the vast majority of shootings, as you adjust the numbers up, mental illness actually increases in representation (it’s a positive correlation – the larger the number of victims, then more likely mental illness is present as a factor).

    I get that it’s an uncomfortable conversation, I do. But at some point we’re going to have to address how to handle this minority of mentally ill people who fixate on violence, who have histories of resisting treatment or care, who isolate and self-medicate, etc. And it seems like nobody meaningfully wants to address it. In a way, I think it’s easier to discuss guns because it’s a more finite conversation. Mental health discussions would involve discussing funding for mental health services, reducing stigma and yes, having a hard discussion about what mentally ill people can be compelled to do and the limits of civil liberties. And I always find it really upsetting that nobody – right or left – seems ready for THAT conversation. And it has to happen. Frankly, if you actually care about the mentally ill, you should want to save their lives as well.

    • GoodNamesAllTaken says:

      Great post. You said better what I was trying to say. Mental illness contributes to so many other things, like homelessness and poverty, and we seem to have so few answers. It’s so important, but so complicated, uncomfortable and difficult it’s hard to get anywhere on it.

      On a personal note, I’m sorry that you have this struggle. You are such a good person and I’m so glad I got to know you a little on here. I hope things are stable for you now and that they get better. Lame, I know. But I do care, for what it’s worth.

      • Sam says:

        Thanks very much, GNAT! I’m in a really good place with my illness, so I worry less and less about myself. But I’m one of the fortunate ones who had routine access to counseling, meds when I needed them, etc. Lack of access is the primary issue that impacts mentally ill people, so I count myself lucky I’m not in that group.

    • lucy2 says:

      Excellent post Sam, and best of luck in continued good health.

      I’m certainly no expert, but I have to think that “mental illness” covers such a broad spectrum of conditions and behavior that there’s a wide range of people hurting themselves to people hurting others.

      I do applaud Demi for speaking up on this and doing what she can to help.

      • Sam says:

        That is true – mental illness can mean anything from depression and/anxiety to really serious functional illnesses. When I read Chelsea O’Donnell’s interview in the Mail, she kept saying “I don’t consider myself to be mentally ill” due to her depression and anxiety. That made me think. I also have OCD, but for me, my OCD has always been more of a funny quirk than anything harmful. It doesn’t really mess with my life, it just makes me weird. It has never stopped me from doing anything I want to do. But then look at somebody like Howie Mandel, who’s been really open about having a level of OCD that crippled him at some point. People have a tendency to treat mental illness as all the same, and that’s simply a bad way to see it. And I think that belies the big point – there’s a small number of mentally ill people who are genuinely dangerous to others. Talking about how to manage them doesn’t offend me, because I know that while I’m labeled the same way, I’m really nothing like them at all! People need to understand that mental illness varies so much, but mentally ill people should also keep in mind that not every critique of a mentally ill person impacts them or is an attack on them. Both sides have to give something here, I think.

  15. nicegirl says:

    Good work, Demi.

  16. GoodNamesAllTaken says:

    I completely agree with with most of what she said, and admire her for speaking up, but I disagree that you can separate mental illness from the gun control discussion. The fact that mentally ill people are more likely to hurt themselves than to hurt others is an argument in support of keeping guns out of their hands, not against it. People with a history of certain mental illnesses should not be allowed to buy guns. I’m sure it gets old to her to hear that after every mass shooting. But if she wants an honest conversation about mental health, this is part of it. Mental illness shouldn’t be stigmatized, and people should be educated about it. But pretending that mentally ill people don’t ever harm other people is not going to help. My next door neighbor’s father, sister and two other people were murdered two months ago by her ex brother in law, who bought a gun and had a history of mental illness. This happens extremely frequently, but it doesn’t make national news because the victims and assailant weren’t strangers. It shouldn’t be about pointing fingers at the mentally ill, but it has to be a part of the discussion.

    • Sam says:

      I agree with you, for the most part. I’m a mentally ill person, and I see a lot people going, “No, it’s not mental health, it’s guns. Just the guns.” Which is sort of a cop-out, to me. Yes, the overwhelming majority of mentally ill people will never harm another person. That’s like pointing out that the vast majority of alcoholics will never get a DUI (it’s true!). But that doesn’t change that there is a small minority of mentally ill people who pull off a large chunk of the mass shootings in the US and who present real danger to other people (just like how there is a small minority of alcoholics who will get repetitive, constant DUIs and who are seriously dangerous to the public because of it). There has to be some kind of middle ground here, but I don’t see many people who are interested in finding it, and that’s sad.

  17. Naddie says:

    She’s doing a great job. One of the main reasons that kept me from getting help was the mental illness stigma. My life could’ve been so much better if I had more information and support like I do now.

  18. Sarah01 says:

    Yes there is still huge stigma especially with boys / men mental health issues.

  19. LAK says:

    John Oliver had a lot to say on this subject this week. It was very educational for me.

  20. Tacos and TV says:

    I wish she wasn’t so grating and annoying because then I think I’d be able to appreciate her POV. But she is just the worst! I can’t with her :( and I feel bad because I suffer from some of her past/present issues and it’s nice to see someone with some power bringing light to these discussions but YUCK. I can’t take it. Also, no photoshop my Apple Fritter!!!

  21. Stephanie says:

    I’m so glad she’s speaking out about this issue and bringing attention to it in the public sphere.

    Also, she is stunning IMO. Rocking that short hair!