When it comes to mental health, it’s a topic of conversation that many try to avoid due to the stigma that still sounds it. That’s why in 2010, Bell Media launched their Bell Let’s Talk Day initiative in effort to spark open and honest conversation about how mental health affects those in Canada and to shine a light on the urgent need for action. As part of Bell Let’s Talk Day, individuals from all across Canada – young and old – took to various social media platforms using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk to share their own personal stories on mental health and how mental illness not only affected them as an individual, but those around them. Since Bell Let’s Talk Day began 8 years ago, millions of Canadians have joined the conversation – including celebrities such as comedian Howie Mandel, and Olympic gold medalist Clara Hughes, just to name a few – and has raised over $86 million dollars since its inception.
Dedicated to promoting mental health awareness, the strategy of Bell Let’s Talk Day was created with the following four pillars in mind: Anti-stigma, care and access, research, and workplace health.
As mentioned, stigma continues to be one of the biggest hurdles for anyone dealing with a mental health crisis, but having the conversation can be a very important step in making change happen. Mental health is also one of the leading causes for disability in Canada, so Bell Media is also committed to promoting the Standard for Psychological Health and Safety in the workplace, and encourages corporations all over the country to become more engaged in the conversation on mental health. It’s also important for those suffering from a mental illness to feel as though they have the right amount of access to the care required to get them proper treatment, as well as for the friends, family members and loved ones of those suffering from mental illness to have extra support. This includes having the right resources available in everything from local hospitals and schools, as well as other mental health organizations and agencies. Bell has also continually invested in ongoing research towards mental health.
Whether you’ve personally experienced a mental illness or know someone who might be, there are a few simple steps you can take to help end the stigma and make mental health a topic of conversation that people won’t feel as though they have to shy away from. First and foremost, language matters. The words you use to describe someone with a mental illness matter. Words like “schizo” and “crazy” only play into the stigma that surrounds mental illness, so avoid those kinds of terms. If someone you know is struggling, be there for them. Sometimes helping someone isn’t necessarily about giving them advice – simply being there, showing your support and providing them with a listening ear or a shoulder to lean on can often be their first step on the road to recovery. Lastly, don’t be afraid to talk about it. Sharing your stories can help challenge the many stereotypes that surround mental illness and helps to break the silence.
There are a variety of ways you can also get involved on social media. Bell Media will donate 5 cents towards Canadian mental health initiatives from every text message sent and mobile/long distance calls made by Bell Canada and bell Alliant Customers; every tweet using the @Healthy_Minds and the #BellLetsTalk hashtag, every post on Instagram tagging @HealthyMindsCanada and the #BellLetsTalk hashtag, every view of the Bell Let’s Talk Day video on Facebook, and every use of the Bell Lets’s Talk geo-filter on Snapchat. Bell Media has also provided a toolkit, available on their website, with other ways to help you spread the word about mental illness. You can download that toolkit at letstalk.bell.ca/en/toolkit.