Demi Lovato has always been an open book, whether they're talking about their experience with addiction, eating disorders, or their sexuality. But one thing that helped the Grammy-nominated singer be so open and able to move forward is access to mental health care — and now, they're helping bring it to the masses.
The demand for therapists has grown immensely since the start of 2020, due to the devastation and unrest we witnessed first-hand. Access to mental health care is more important than ever, which is why today, Lovato is partnering with online and mobile therapy company Talkspace to launch the Talkspace Access Project, a new initiative aimed at increasing access to mental health resources for those in underserved communities. Together, they'll be donating 1,000 free months of therapy to those in need.
Lovato tells Refinery29 that this initiative is something they're proud of. "Therapy has been critical to my life and well-being, but many still say that mental health conditions are exaggerated or not real," Lovato says. "Mental health conditions are real, and more people than we know suffer through them in silence. Through this partnership, I want to use my voice to bring more awareness to mental health care, let people know it is ok to seek care, and show people that therapy should be available for all who need it."
Therapy has been integral to Lovato through the many difficult obstacles in life — most recently, coming out as nonbinary. "For so long I went to such great lengths to suppress who I really am to fit this sexy, feminine pop star and actress image that others had assigned for me that I never truly identified with," they tell Refinery29. "Through tools like therapy, I now know how important it is to live your truth and not suppress yourself because you can only carry on like that for so long before it comes spilling out and manifesting, sometimes negatively, in other ways."
The initiative kicks off with a donation of 500 months of free therapy to The Loveland Foundation, an organization created to bring opportunity and healing to communities of color, especially to Black women and girls. The hours will be distributed to the Loveland Therapy Fund, where participants will have access to Talkspace therapists for free free.
"This past year has been one of the most traumatic and stressful times in modern American history, and it is no surprise that the BIPOC community was acutely affected. We know that BIPOC individuals are still struggling to cope after a period of immense emotional distress and face increased mental health challenges due to existing stigma and a lack of access to culturally responsive care," Sharlene Kemler, CEO of The Loveland Foundation, said in a statement to Refinery29. "The Talkspace Access Project comes at a time of increased need and will offer critical mental health support and relief to thousands of Black women and girls nationwide who are reeling from the impacts of the past year."
Nearly 80% of Americans reported that the pandemic has caused significant stress in their lives, and the impact has been even greater in the BIPOC community. Almost 50% of Black adults say the pandemic has negatively impacted their mental health. And, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness, just 45% of adults with a mental illness will actually seek treatment in a given year.
"Collectively, we all experienced so many obstacles in 2020 and are now navigating life in this new normal," Lovato says. "That’s a lot for anyone to take on, so I really hope people are more open to having these important conversations and know that prioritizing your mental health isn’t something to be ashamed of."