Demi Lovato has never shied away from sharing her struggles with bipolar disorder and addiction. The 24-year-old singer/songwriter is trying to spread a message that's simple but life-changing: She wants the world to know it is possible to live well with mental illness. “I’m living proof of that," she told People in a recent interview.
Lovato's latest advocacy effort—through her partnership with the Be Vocal campaign—is designed to offer up more proof. The Be Vocal Collection is a series of photographs documenting the real lives of 10 people with mental health conditions.
"Whenever you type into a search engine something like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder, or something like that, the images that pop are very negative and stereotypical," Lovato explained to HealthDay news. "Pictures of pills, or people with their head in their hands, or someone pulling their hair out."
The Be Vocal Collection is designed to change that imagery. The subjects in the photographs range in age from 26 to 67, and live in cities across the country. The have a range of conditions, including bipolar disorder, depression, anxiety, borderline personality disorder, and post-traumatic stress disorder.
All of them allowed photojournalist Shaul Schwarz to capture what their day-to-day actually looks like. "We will make those photographs publicly available and free to use whenever the subject of mental illness comes up in the news," Lovato said.
Dior Vargas, a native New Yorker who lives with depression and anxiety, is one of the brave people spotlighted in the series. She is also an activist, and founded the People of Color and Mental Illness Photo Project to promote the accurate portrayal of minorities with mental health conditions in the media.
Suzy Favor Hamilton is another advocate who volunteered for the series. The photos of the three-time Olympian, writer, and mom reveal how she manages her bipolar disorder—through medication, a clean diet, running, and her daily yoga practice.
The images of elementary school social worker and small business owner Yvonne Mendoza, a first generation Mexican-American living with depression, capture the the value of her support system. Here she is shown embracing her mother at the family's cake shop.
These three women and the seven other other people in The Be Vocal Collection are chipping away at the stigma on mental illness. Like Lovato, they are all living proof that while there are dark days, there is also hope.
The Be Vocal Collection was developed in partnership with Getty Images. For more information on the campaign, visit bevocalspeakup.com.