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In 2010 Bell Media began its impactful initiative called “Bell Let’s Talk” Day. It is the largest corporate initiative in the country entirely focused on Mental Health and Wellness. Since its conception 8 years ago “Bell Let’s Talk” has raised millions of dollars for institutions and organizations across the country along with the aid of some government and corporations that have joined forces with Bell Media. Its mantra is dedicated to moving the stigma around mental illness forward by promoting awareness and taking action through its four pillars; workplace health, research, access & care and anti-stigma.
As most of you know by now, many people struggling from a mental illness often suffer in silence for fear of being judged or ostracized. They are afraid to seek help for fear that their friend, their boss or even their spouse may find out that they are suffering. Bell Media decided 8 years ago that it was time for people to start talking and took their vision and resources to build a day entirely dedicated to opening up this very important conversation. This was a very bold move given that at the time society wasn’t yet ready to talk.
Since its conception, “Bell Let’s Talk” Day quickly grew to celebrity status, literally. Well known celebrity figures from across Canada jumped on board to share their own personal stories of living with a mental illness. Six time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes became the first official spokesperson to join forces with Bell Media and open up the much overdue dialogue. Before long many more familiar faces were standing behind Clara Hughes and taking action by starting their own conversations. Michael Landsberg, a very well-known Canadian Sports Broadcaster has said that speaking publicly about his ongoing battle with depression is probably his biggest accomplishment and has since begun his own movement called #sicknotweak. He does a daily vlog which I listen to everyday where he discusses his struggles and assures us that suffering from a mental illness does not makes us weak. Lastly, and probably the most famous face of “Bell Let’s Talk” is Howie Mandel. He has been very open about his struggles with Mental Illness and continues to do so through an international stage.
This year on January 31st, “Bell Let’s Talk” has decided to take their initiative one step further in ending the stigma surrounding Mental Illness as they travelled the country interviewing a multitude of everyday individuals suffering and sharing their own stories. Stories like these will ensure their goal becomes even more attainable with the help of Dr. Heather Stuart, the Bell Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair at Queen’s University who developed 5 simple methods to strive towards going ahead. Her list is straightforward and uncomplicated, acknowledging that “language matters- pay attention to the words you use about Mental Health”; “educate yourself – learn, know and talk more, understand the signs”; “Be kind – small acts of kindness speaks a lot”, Listen and ask – sometimes it’s best to just listen”; and lastly, “Talk about it – start a dialogue, break the silence”.
Through my writing over the past year I have urged the importance of using these 5 simple techniques in order to break the stigma and even though it’s going to take a lot more than one day per year being dedicated to this action, it is definitely awakening our nation and beyond. Each year on “Bell Let’s Talk” Day they have taken the social media world by storm by donating 5 cents to Canadian Mental Health programs each time you text or call someone on a Bell network, each time you tweet the hashtag #BellLetsTalk or view their “Bell Let’s Talk” video on Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Instagram. They will also donate 5 cents for anyone who changes their profile picture on Facebook to incorporate their “Bell Let’s Talk” frame.
You may think how will my 5 cents, 10 cents or even 50 cents help? Well just like the saying goes, “every vote counts”, it truly will, as it is embarking on attaining its goal of raising 100 million dollars within the next few years, and just as importantly people are starting more and more conversations across the nation and beyond. Are you ready to join the conversation?