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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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