mental health

Why Bell Let’s Talk Day Is So Important To Me

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day,  an initiative created by the Canadian telecommunications and media company Bell. This day is designed to break the silence around mental illness and support mental health all across Canada.

On Bell Let’s Talk Day, January 25, 2017, Bell will  raise money to contribute towards mental health initiatives in Canada, by counting every text and call, as well as tweet and Instagram post, with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk or each Facebook video view and use of their Snapchat geofilter. They will donate 5 cents for every action.

A lot of people criticize Bell Let’s Talk Day for tying a corporation into a cause as a way to promote Bell’s services, or as a publicity stunt. Or criticizing it as a day of all talk and no action. However, the money that Bell raises on that day and from other initiatives, does go a long way to contributing to mental health care in our community. In the past few weeks, I have read countless articles about different programs and resources funded by Bell Let’s Talk. They are having a real impact. This includes providing care and access to support services, as well as investing in critical research.

But we need to see beyond the tangible impact to the real contributions that Bell Let’s Talk makes to erasing the stigma around mental illness. I have participated in Bell Let’s Talk for the past few years and I have seen the most incredible conversations online around the #bellletstalk hashtag. People have truly felt more comfortable opening up and sharing their stories. Personally, I feel less alone after seeing the testimonials of the various celebrity spokespeople. Seriously, Michael Landsberg and Clara Hughes are my heroes. It is so amazing to see that people can still be successful and impactful while living with a mental illness. That they can live a life full of meaning despite their illness or perhaps because of it. I also feel less alone when I see millions of tweets from ordinary individuals who are sharing their personal experiences in brief 140 character snippets. I think it’s incredible that one company can inspire this level of conversation. The posts paint a picture of mental illness that is diverse, beautiful, ugly, fragile, strong, messy and imperfect. They show the highs and lows of human emotion and the human experience. They show people who may feel broken but are resilient, passionate and powerful. The conversation that arises from their individual posts grows into one living, breathing organism that shapes a national outlook on something that is typically seen as an individual problem and makes it about all Canadians.

Maybe I am naive, but Bell Let’s Talk makes me feel like I matter to my fellow citizens. That they care that I have bipolar disorder and that it has been hard for me to get out of bed every morning for the past few weeks. That I spend my day fighting physical symptoms of anxiety and depression, like chest pain and racing thoughts. That I waste hours beating myself up with negative self-talk and that my thoughts are so intrusive that I can’t focus or function. This conversation makes me feel a part of something larger, a part of a movement.

Why is this conversation important? Because we can normalize mental illness and show people who might not understand what it is like to live with one. Why? This might increase their empathy and reduce the discrimination that people face in the workplace, in their relationships, even at the doctor. If we can decrease the stigma and discrimination, more people will be likely to seek help early on, before their symptoms get worse and they reach a crisis. This type of conversation can literally save lives. I’ve seen countless examples of people who feel isolated, but through the power of the internet, can make meaningful connections with people that truly understand them.

Of course, we need to go beyond the conversation today to make lasting, meaningful change. We need to make every day like Bell Let’s Talk Day. We need to flood the internet with stories and anecdotes and evidence-based information. We need to work with our governments to increase access to important healthcare resources to treat mental illness. For those of you who are fellow Canadians, I recently watched a video that Trudeau posted on his Facebook page, where he said that the federal government is providing $5 billion over the next few years for mental health initiatives. This is fantastic news. Now, how can that money be spent effectively? We need the voices of people on the front line (researchers, social workers, counsellors, doctors) as well as those impacted (people with mental illness) to contribute their expertise. This includes ensuring that mental healthcare addresses themes of intersectionality, and specifically addresses the needs of people of colour, people living in poverty, people in the LGBTQ community and people with co-morbidities such as physical disability or chronic illness, among other marginalized groups. We also need to make sure not to gloss over the terrifying and shitty experiences of people with mental illness. There isn’t always a happy recovery story for every individual – and we need to acknowledge that. We also need to acknowledge that those who haven’t recovered or aren’t “high-functioning” (I’ve decided I hate that term, but that’s for another blog), aren’t weak. They are sick and just haven’t found the right treatment yet. We need to emphasize that this isn’t their fault, but a failure on society to take care of them and their needs.

Bell Let’s Talk Day is just one example of a movement that allows this type of critical dialogue to take place in one unified setting. I’m confident that I will leave today inspired and with new ideas of how I can take my own channel, Slay Girl Society, and make a difference beyond writing three blog articles a week. Because I want to open this up and make a bigger impact than my primary goal of education and awareness. I’m not sure what that means right now, but I am sure through more open  and honest dialogue, I can figure it out.

What are some of your ideas of how we can improve mental health care? In Canada, in the U.S or elsewhere on this magnificent planet? Comment below with your thoughts!

Here are some interesting videos from the Bell Let’s Talk Campaign that I enjoyed. Take a look!

6 comments on “Why Bell Let’s Talk Day Is So Important To Me

  1. I’m moving to Canada tomorrow, lol. Has always been my dream to move there. One day. 😉 Anyway, this is a great initiative.

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  2. It’s a great initiative. People complaining about it being tied to a corporation need to ask themselves if they’d rather Bell just did nothing?

    Here in the U.K., the government has been making efforts to get rid of mental health stigma, encouraging people to ask for help. The trouble is, they’re not backing it up with the actual treatment. But it’s a start.

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  3. As an alternative perspective from someone who makes an effort in their life to rid themselves of corporate advertising. To the extent that I avoid any television with ads, use adblockers while web browsing, and I pay for any services that offer ad-free accounts.

    I have a strong aversion to corporate advertising, to the extent that seeing the word Bell plastered all over your post makes it difficult for me to read it.

    I agree that mental health is important. It’s wonderful that Bell has chosen to support this cause, but I find it extremely unappealing that they’re using this opportunity to advertise so blatantly. They likely spend similar amount of money to what they’re donating to mental health on traditional advertising campaigns that garner them only a small fraction of the recognition.

    Mental health programs are in dire need of support. I can’t be upset at people for supporting them. Rather, I wish that all this energy that goes into supporting and promoting Bell, could instead be put toward pressuring politicians rather than depending on the generosity of corporations.

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    • Fair point. What you are saying makes sense. I guess as someone who used to work in the non-profit space, I see an opportunity that brings people together as a chance to raise awareness. It’s hard to mobilize people and somehow this company has done it. So I guess the gains for me outweigh the bad. That’s how I feel anyways. A lot of great insight is shared today that carries over into deeper conversations with a real impact. But I don’t want to negate your feelings. Just sharing mine. But I agree that it would be better if this conversation could occur without attachment to a certain brand.

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      • I agree with you, I think it’s great what they’ve done and how they’ve mobilized so many people. I guess my discontent is aimed more at how society seems to be unable to organize itself. The political system brings us leaders like Trump, Harper and Trudeau who accomplish nothing positive. We’re stuck relying on corporations because we’ve given up on elected officials working for our best interests.

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  4. Beverly, I couldn’t agree with you more about Bell Let’s Talk Day! It’s had a major role in giving me the courage to seek treatment for my anxiety disorders. I actually wrote all about Bell Let’s Talk Day myself in my newly-birthed blog – I had a goal of starting a blog about anxiety by that date just so I could tell people how much Bell Let’s Talk Day means to me.

    I really loved your description of individual posts growing into one living, breathing organism – it really does feel like that, and I find it incredibly inspiring.

    Thank you for your post, I really enjoyed reading it, and it’s always great to encounter like-minded people. Much love to you as you struggle with your mental health challenges, I can definitely identify.

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