Singer Demi Lovato is bringing discussions about drug rehab and mental health to a concert near you.
Her current Tell Me You Love Me world tour includes CAST on Tour, a speaker series that focuses on mental health and addiction. The idea is to attract concertgoers to the discussions of mental health that are often stigmatized.
Seven years ago, Lovato was a patient at a CAST facility in California and has since become a part owner. She and fellow co-owner Mike Bayer thought it would help Lovato’s fans to bring the for-profit organization on tour with her.
“We’re trying to create something that would make it cool and mainstream and make mental health cooler,” said Bayer.
I had no idea what to expect before attending a CAST session held inside the Prudential Center before her recent Newark, N.J. concert. What I saw was a crowd of about 200 mostly teenaged girls, some accompanied by their parents, who shared stories of addiction and hardship.
Lovato sat silently in the front row for the entire length of the discussion.
Suzanne Lee, a recovering alcoholic, gave that day’s guest presentation in which she admitted to stealing her child’s birthday money to buy more booze. When she had finished, attendees asked questions about how she knew who her real friends were and how she first identified she had a problem.
Past guest speakers have included DJ Khaled and Dr. Phil.
Following the session, the attendees lined up to talk to Bayer, with many of them crying and desperately seeking help. Bayer said he refers them to treatment close to their homes (no treatment is available at the concerts).
One college-aged woman was seeking help for bulimia, which she said was ruining her dream of working in medicine. Another asked for advice on continuing her sobriety. The youth of these women shocked me. Most were not even 20 years old, but had been through very adult situations.
Treatments cost thousand of dollars, sometimes even tens of thousands.
This idea is truly innovative—taking the rehab center on tour. Reaching them at a concert, where some may feel tempted to binge drink or use recreational drugs, certainly conveys a message.
CAST sessions are limited to around 200 people. Concertgoers who can’t attend are shown a minute-long video during Lovato’s show, in which she touts her involvement with the center and reassures fans that it’s okay to ask for help. After all, the once-troubled child star once need help herself.
The concert was presented as a safe space, with Lovato giving shout outs to attendees who are part of the LGBTQ community and those affected by the #MeToo movement. She spoke openly about her struggles with drugs and about her alcoholic father who has since died.
It was a sharp contrast to the bulk of the concert, during which Lovato sang sexy pop lyrics, the speakers thumped, and the young fans sang loudly in unison.