Today is Bell Let’s Talk day – a day where mental health takes centre stage on Canadian social media. I’m not normally a huge fan of corporate sponsorship, but this case is a little different. Bell media has huge reach in this country – they own and operate 34 specialty channels, 2 conventional networks, 4 pay TV services, 106 radio stations, 30 apps, and more than 200 websites. That equates to a staggering reach, which can help promote this vital message. So I’m willing to put my dislike of corporations jumping on charitable causes in order to get exposure on hold today. Bell funds a number of really important initiatives with money raised by people using the #BellLetsTalk hashtag on social media and through sending texts on the Bell Mobile network. Funding for mental health is sorely lacking in this country so anything that helps increase services is okay in my books.
I’ve discussed my battle with depression and grief here before and have been extremely fortunate that in my circle of friends, mental health issues are openly discussed. In fact, when I started to show signs of depression, several friends sent messages saying they thought I might be depressed and urged me to seek help. Nobody made me feel “less than” because I was struggling. Not everybody is as lucky as I have been. For every success story like mine, there are many stories that don’t end with supportive friends and family rallying around. Which is why initiatives like #BellLetsTalk are so critical.
If people don’t feel safe discussing something, we need to ask ourselves why. Why is discussing mental health taboo when discussing another illness such as cancer isn’t? Why do some people still see mental health issues as a personal weakness instead of a legitimate medical condition? Why are statements like “you’re not trying hard enough”, “you just need to shake it off”, “everybody feels down sometimes”, or “if you wanted to, you could feel better” still heard by people experiencing depression or other mental health issues? That’s equivalent to telling me I could will my asthma away. (From personal experience, wishing away asthma is not a doctor recommended treatment plan and pretending you don’t have it never ends well.)
I wish I had some deep words of wisdom to offer – that I could explain exactly what I did that has caused the black cloud of depression that has been hanging over me to lessen over the past few months – but I don’t. I love that celebrities such as Michael Landsberg, Serena Ryder, Clara Hughes, and Howie Mandel are willing to lend their voices to this cause. Mental health issues can affect anyone at any time, and the more people who are willing to bring their voices to this conversation, the better. I guess that is the advice I can offer – that nobody needs to suffer in silence. If you feel like you’re alone, you’re not. If you feel like it can’t get any better, it can. I won’t tell you it’s going to be easy – because some days are anything but. I will, however, tell you that it will be worth it. That the view when the clouds finally begin to part is worth all of the effort you expend to get there.
So today, and every day, let’s talk about mental health and work towards ending the stigma and helping every Canadian have access to mental health services in a timely fashion.