On June 24, former Disney Star and now singer, Demi Lovato reportedly overdosed on heroin. Lovato has always been outspoken about her experiences with substance abuse and mental health; one of her new songs “Sober” actually deals with the topic of relapsing.
After news of her overdose broke, I watched my social media flood with messages of hope, support and care for Lovato. Other celebrities were posting statuses, photos and tweets about how they wished the best for her. People I knew in my own community were sharing articles and re-tweeting tweets about how sad it was, how they hoped she would be okay. The support undoubtedly outweighed the negativity or stigma.
This obviously was really great. I was happy to see people say kind things about her, when addiction often comes with so much blame and never enough compassion. But this also made me think about who we choose to support, and who do not.
This is because Lovato doesn’t look like an addict. She looks like an innocent, young woman who made a mistake. She’s beautiful; her skin is flawless and her hair is never out of place. Her voice always sounds exceptional live. She’s an advocate for supporting those with mental health issues. She’s using her fame to raise awareness. No, Demi Lovato, the girl we saw alongside Joe Jonas in 2008’s Camp Rock on the Disney Channel, she couldn’t possibly be an addict.
But she is. She’s told us so many times. In “Sober,” she literally told us that she was struggling.
It’s easy to support her, and we should. Lovato’s overdose has taught us a lot about addiction — even beautiful people with money, friends, glamour, fame and flawless skin use heroin. But are those the only people we choose to support, the people who don’t scare us?
Waterloo Region is facing a public health crisis. The opioid crisis is literally in our backyard, standing right beside the people who are opposing supervised injection sites. How many people in Waterloo Region shared a TMZ article on Facebook about Lovato’s recovery, and then subsequently scoffed at a person they stigmatized as a drug user on their way to the Kitchener Market the next morning? How many people in Waterloo Region liked a tweet supporting Lovato, yet rolled their eyes when I preached about how we should all own Naloxone kits in my June Editor’s Note for the Community Edition?
It’s easy to support a celebrity, yet so easy to turn our backs on our neighbours. It’s easier to cross the street when we see someone asking for spare change downtown. Lovato isn’t bothering us. She isn’t in front of us asking for help, but members of our own community are.
I’m not asking you to go out and solve The Region’s problems on your own. I’m asking you to share articles with accurate stats about our Region’s crisis. I’m asking you to vote in the municipal election for candidates who actually value and plan to support those who work in harm reduction. I’m asking you to call an ambulance when you see someone passed out in the street. I’m asking you stop exchanging false narratives surrounding supervised injection sites.
I’m asking you to talk to your kids about drug use, because addiction doesn’t discriminate in terms of class. Lovato taught us that, now let’s apply it to our own community.