Demi Lovato and the Single Mental Illness Narrative

After being diagnosed with bipolar disorder, Demi Lovato has started a new mental health campaign. I’m glad that Demi is receiving help and is sharing her story. The stigma surrounding mental illness must be removed so that more people are willing to seek help, and the stigma will only be removed when people speak up. In this way, Demi’s campaign is a step in the right direction.


I’m concerned that we’re pushing a single narrative onto people with mental illness, and that people who support Demi Lovato’s campaign without question are further cementing this narrative.

The front page of Be Vocal, Speak Up says:

“I realised that bipolar disorder may be a part of my life, but it isn’t who I am.” – Demi Lovato

This is Demi’s narrative. Everyone with mental illness needs to write their own narrative. After all, there are many different paths on the road to mental illness recovery. And yet, Be Vocal, Speak Up only promotes one.

I’m using cognitive behavioural therapy to recover from anxiety, and I know that eventually I’ll completely recover. I’m not on medication because after one attempt, I know the side effects make me feel worse. I know someone else with anxiety, and medication helps them. Someone else I know used to have depression, but they no longer do. They went to therapy and took antidepressants for a period of time.

Only one of the above narratives is valid on Be Vocal, Speak Up: The narrative that mental illness is permanent, and medication is necessary.

The websites treatment questionnaire only mentions medication. Other treatment options are barely touched upon. “Additional Resources” lists crucial items such as “stay positive” and “create joy and satisfaction”, but with no detail on how to incorporate this into treatment. Anyone whose narrative doesn’t include medication will have to look elsewhere.

The same page says:

“Living well with mental illness conditions is an ongoing process.”

Be Vocal, Speak Up pushes the narrative that mental illness is permanent, even though complete recovery is possible depending on the situation.Mental illness is very similar to many other illnesses in this way.

We must not further stigmatize people suffering from mental illness by disregarding their narrative. Suppose someone, let’s call him Logan, has depression. Logan gets up the courage to see a psychiatrist and says, “I’m suffering from depression, but I know that with treatment I’ll eventually recover.” Why negate Logan’s narrative by saying, “Sorry. the best you can hope for is living well. Living well with mental illness is an ongoing process. You’ll never completely recover.”

Everyone’s narrative is valid, but instead of empowering mental illness sufferers to take charge of their story, Be Vocal, Speak Up only accepts a single narrative.

The idea that complete recovery is possible isn’t even touched upon. Why?

Medication is only one of many treatment options, but other options aren’t discussed. Why?

I’m grateful to Demi Lovato for starting this discussion. After all, everyone deserves the freedom to choose their own narrative. It’s time for those of us with differing narratives to speak up.