Thursday, 6 February 2020

Reflections on Ten Years of Bell Let's Talk Day by Sarah Evans

Last week was the annual Bell Let's Talk Day. It is the tenth year Bell had this national fundraising and awareness campaign. While I happily realize that this campaign has done a lot to make it easier for people to talk about mental health, there are a number of things that could be done to improve it (as well as the media coverage of it).

In years past, I felt that Bell Let's Talk Day mostly revolved around the celebrities that endorsed it. Not that that is a bad thing; celebrity buy-in is a great way to start to promote a cause. Also, in encouraging people to open up about mental illness, I sometimes felt this underlying message that if people are just courageous enough to open up, help will be waiting with open arms. That has not been my experience or that of countless others. I was so happy on this year's Bell Let's Talk Day when I heard a broadcaster say that, unless a person has benefits at work, it is very difficult to find help  (because, as I have found, it is so cost prohibitive). Or you have to wait on a long waiting list and may only be allowed to have a certain number of sessions.

Another thing I have noticed about this day is that people only tell the nice and clean stories. The ones of people who have had depression or anxiety (or even an addiction) but are well on their way to or are in recovery. There are many other mental illnesses, like Schizophrenia or Borderline Personality Disorder, that are not always clean and tidy. As well, mental health affects all people, like myself, a person with a disability, but I've never seen people with disabilities included in the campaign.

While Bell Let's Talk Day has done a lot to break down the stigma of mental health, which has been it's goal, there are some things that it (and the media that covers it) could do to portray the reality of who lives with a mental illness and what it's like.