Demi Lovato is a leading voice in the fight against mental health stigma.

Ms. Lovato goes to Washington.

In 2011, 18-year-old actress and singer Demi Lovato came out as having bipolar disorder in an interview with People.

The announcement came three months after she checked out of a rehab facility. She was diagnosed with the disorder during her time in rehab, where she was being treated for an eating disorder and self-harm.


Lovato performs during a December 2011 concert, months after opening up about her struggle with mental illness. Photo by Stephen Lovekin/Getty Image.

Since then, Lovato has partnered with a host of mental health advocacy groups to form the Be Vocal initiative.

The organization urges people to help bust mental health stigma by telling their own stories, advocating for legislative action, and educating others on what it's like living with mental illness.


Coinciding with Mental Illness Awareness Week, Lovato recently headed to Washington to make her voice heard.

As part of the National Council for Behavioral Health's Hill Day, Lovato addressed crowds that included politicians, mental health advocates, and supporters.

Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Be Vocal.

There, she urged Congress to take up comprehensive mental health reform.


Here Lovato speaks at the Russell Senate Office Building on Oct. 5, 2015. Photo by Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Be Vocal.

While there, she met with Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn.

Sen. Cornyn has recently spoken out in favor of comprehensive mental health reform and recently introduced his own legislation.

"We can do a lot better [than placing mentally ill individuals in jails and emergency rooms] ... by not throwing people in jail when they're mentally ill, and providing them treatment so they can get better and lead more productive lives," he said during a recent appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."


Lovato made her own TV appearance on a recent episode of "MSNBC Live" with Tamron Hall.

During the taping, Lovato noted that it seems like the only time the country appears to talk much about mental illness is after a tragedy like the recent mass shooting in Oregon.

She debunked a lot of the common myths about people living with mental illness. For one, there's the myth that people living with mental illness are inherently dangerous. In reality, that statement simply isn't true.

GIFS via MSNBC.

It's hard to debunk myths when stigma hangs so heavy — that's why Lovato wants you to speak up.

For those of us with mental illness, speaking up can be really scary. But it's only through speaking that we're able to break down stigma and begin to educate the public on the lives we lead and the unique challenges we face.


The National Alliance on Mental Illness has some excellent resources for anyone wondering what they can do to help break down stigma. More than 40 million adults in the U.S. live with some form of mental illness — whether that's depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, or something else — but too often, we're reduced to movie villain-esque caricatures, when in fact we're real people living real lives.


Watch Demi Lovato's appearance on "MSNBC Live" with Tamron Hall below.

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Courtesy of Macy's

In many ways, 18-year-old Idaho native, Hank Cazier, is like any other teenager you've met. He loves chocolate, pop music, and playing games with his family. He has lofty dreams of modeling for a major clothing company one day. But one thing that sets him apart may also jeopardize his future is his recent battle against a brain tumor.

Cazier was diagnosed in 2015. When he had surgery to remove the tumor, he received trauma to his brain and lost some of his motor functionality. He's been in physical, occupational, and speech therapy ever since. The experience impacted Cazier's confidence and self-esteem, so he's been looking for a way to build himself back up again.

"I wanted to do something that helped me look forward to the future," he says.

Enter Make-A-Wish, a nonprofit organization that grants wishes for children battling critical illnesses, providing them a chance to make the impossible possible. The organization partnered with Macy's to raise awareness and help make those wishes a reality. The hope is that the "wish effect" will improve their quality of life and empower them with the strength they need to overcome these illnesses and look towards the future. That was a particularly big deal for Cazier, who had been feeling like so many of his wishes weren't going to be possible because of his critical illness.

"In the beginning, it was hard to accept that it would be improbable for me to accomplish my previous goals because my illness took away so many of my physical abilities," says Cazier. His wish of becoming a model also seemed out of reach.

But Macy's and Make-A-Wish didn't see it like that. Once they learned about Cazier's wish, they knew he had to make it come true by inviting him to be part of the magical Macy's holiday shoot in New York.

Courtesy of Macy's

Make-A-Wish can't fulfill children's wishes without the generosity of donors and partners like Macy's. In fact, since 2003, Macy's has given more than $122 million to Make-A-Wish and impacted the lives of more than 2.9 million people.

Cazier's wish experience was beyond what he could've imagined, and it filled him with so much joy and confidence. "It is like waking up and discovering that you have super powers. It feels amazing!" he exclaims.

One of the best parts about the day for him was the kindness everyone who helped make it happen showed him.

"The employees of Macy's and Make-A-Wish made me feel welcome, warm, and cared for," he says. "I am truly grateful that even though they were busy doing their jobs, they were able to show kindness and compassion towards me in all of the little details."

He also got to spend part of the shoot outdoors, which, as someone who loves climbing, hiking, and scuba-diving but has trouble doing those activities now, was very welcome.

Courtesy of Macy's

Overall, Cazier feels he grew a lot during his modeling wish and is now emboldened to work towards a better quality of life. "I want to acquire skills that help me continue to improve in these circumstances," he says.

You can change the lives of more kids like Cazier just by writing a letter to Santa and dropping it in the big red letterbox at Macy's (you can also write and submit one online). For every letter received before Dec. 24, 2019, Macy's will donate $1 to Make-A-Wish, up to $1 million. By writing a letter to Santa, you can help a child replace fear with confidence, sadness with joy, and anxiety with hope.

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