Bell Let’s Talk about mental health initiatives
Jan 28 will mark Bell’s 10th Annual Let’s Talk days, raising both money and awareness for mental health. Last year, the initiative generated approximately $7,719,371 for mental health programs.
This year, both Pinterest and TikTok have joined the cause, which means that Bell will donate five cents for every text, tweet, TikTok video, and Snapchat filer using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk.
Similarly, the carrier will also donate five cents for “every Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, TikTok, Twitter and YouTube view of the Bell Let’s Talk Day video”.
This movement has been instrumental in obtaining donations for Canadian mental health programs, as it is reported to have generated about $1.1 million since its start. However, the annual nature of the initiative begs the question(s): why do we only focus on mental health for one day a year? Why does the conversation not continue to be as strong, supportive, and focused as the other 364 days of the year?
Despite its undoubtedly good intentions, Bell’s Let’s Talk Day treats mental health awareness as a sort of one-and-done type project, where, if you contribute on their day of choice, you have done your part for the year and nothing changes moving forward.
What mental health initiatives truly need is ongoing recognition. We must continually work within our communities to dismantle the lingering stigmas that have been built up around mental illnesses. We must do what we can daily and attempt to both understand and support those who are suffering from mental illnesses.
Recovery is a process, not a single destination. The intersectionality of mental illness plays a major role in this as well. The relationship between mental illness and characteristics such as poverty, gender identity, sexual orientation, race, and ability needs to be addressed before we can be expected to make any major changes.
Many of us likely have previous experiences with some type of mental illness or are will in the coming years. What is necessary to take note of, however, is that some individuals are at a much greater risk than others, due to the circumstances outlined above.
It’s necessary to understand the nature of this intersectionality, is due to the power imbalances that #BellLetsTalk does not address.
The top-down, expert-driven medical models of understanding mental illness, that is promoted through initiatives such as this, fail to acknowledge the social justice issues that undeniably play a major part.
There is not one, linear or objective experience with mental illness. Rather, it is a collection of how one understands themselves and the world around them that greatly impacts experiences with mental illnesses. This, needless to say, is what makes mental illness unique to the individual.
But, if every experience with mental illness is tailored to the individual, how can we collectively work at making a difference for those who are struggling, more than just one day a year?
Personally, when working at this change, I try to view mental illness the way I would any other illness or injury. Instead of constantly promoting recovery narratives, it is vital to perceive mental illness as an ongoing battle, as this is truly the case for many.
So, what specific actions can be taken to continue to support mental health initiatives throughout our daily lives? It’s simple, really.
First, of course, take part in Bell’s Let’s Talk Day. Despite its shortcomings, it’s a well-intended cause that does have a significant impact on donations and awareness. But don’t forget these things after the day has come and gone.
Work at perceiving mental illness like any other illness or injury. People who suffer from various conditions of mental illness need society to become more understanding and accepting of them, not as limited persons, but as persons who need maybe a bit of extra compassion and empathy. Patience and kindness can go a long way.
Similarly, another thing that anyone and everyone can do to aid the process is to bring it upon themselves to research the complications, causes, and solutions regarding various mental illnesses. It is only within a deeper understanding of what some of our neighbours may be experiencing that we might be able to become more accepting, and subsequently help in ways we may not have considered previously.
Finally, understand the fact that about one in four people in the world suffers from some type of mental illness or neurological disorder at some point in their lives. That’s a lot.
We will not and cannot understand what those around us might be going through day-to-day, but what we all can do, is donate to causes when we are able, consistently work at breaking the negative stigmas surrounding mental illnesses, educate ourselves regarding the different aspects of mental illnesses, and finally, do all of these things so that we might display more compassion and empathy for those who are struggling.