EXCLUSIVE: How Demi Lovato and Mike Bayer Are Making Mental Health Mainstream: 'It's About Empowerment'
By Sophie Schillaci
Behind every great rock star, there's a team of under-the-radar rock stars. For Demi Lovato, one is mental health and personal development coach Mike Bayer.
"We met after a bad mushroom trip," Bayer tells ET. "She asked for help and she had called her therapist and another person, both had said, 'Call Mike Bayer.'"
Lovato recalls the story with a laugh, telling fans that by the time Bayer showed up at her house that day, "I've sobered up and I'm like, 'Well, f**k.'"
More than 10 years ago, Bayer founded CAST Centers in Los Angeles which, according to its website, offers clients "comprehensive, unified wellness and recovery services." Bayer, who now co-owns the organization with Lovato, says the name is a metaphor.
"CAST initially was holding a broken bone in place until it could heal," he explains. "Now what we've been able to do is help really empower people to be the best version of themselves."
ET sat down with Bayer in his Hollywood home and toured the nearby facilities to learn how he's working to make mental health care as mainstream as going to the gym, and why anyone and everyone can benefit from giving their minds and souls a little TLC.
"We treat addiction, psychiatric disorders, anxiety, depression, and in a different program we help people who just want to be better," Bayer explains. "Who want to do better in their job, they may be struggling in their marriage, and so we help a wide range."
Lovato began working as a kid on Barney & Friends, moving on to achieve stardom in her teens on the Disney Channel's Camp Rock and Sonny With a Chance franchises. By 2008, at just 16 years old, Lovato released her debut album and began to receive critical acclaim for her powerhouse voice.
But like many starlets before her, Lovato also began to struggle with fame and substance abuse. In recent years, she's been open about being diagnosed with bi-polar disorder and facing issues with bullies, depression, an eating disorder, and self-harm.
"What CAST did for me, it provided a safe place for me to come home to after work every single day," Lovato told CBS Sunday Morning last month. "It gave me structure. It gave me responsibility. Yes, I already had a lot of responsibility on my shoulders, but it was more so responsibility of my actions and learning how to be an adult."
Since then, Bayer has become a mainstay in the 24-year-old singer’s inner circle.
"That was the beginning of our journey, from her history and struggling with addiction, cutting, an eating disorder, and then now getting to the other side of it where it's about empowerment, advocacy, how to change the world -- that's what we do," Bayer, who has also overcome addiction, says.
"Demi has done a complete 180," he adds. "She's the biggest pop star on the planet who talks about her issues in a public way. That is a miracle in the entertainment biz."
Today, Bayer works with clients from all walks of life -- famous and not -- and most recently joined Lovato and Nick Jonas on their Future Now tour working directly with fans before each show.
"What we created on tour is if art and personal development had a baby," he says, citing Lovato, Jonas and Metta World Peace among the guest speakers during the intimate seminars. "We've had so many people come up to us afterwards and say, 'I've been hurting myself,' or 'I haven't told my parents that I needed help,' or 'How do I feel better?' 'How do I get involved?' There are a lot of people out there that just want to be a part of the personal development movement."
A movement that is well on its way to popular culture with the help of Bayer's team and a mission to treat mental health in the same way we do physical health and fitness.
"I do think people struggle a lot with, 'What will people think?' And when you're even doing for the greater good, a lot of celebrities still get bad press," Bayer admits. "But it's gonna change. Things are changing. Things are getting better."