Bell Let’s Talk should be more than talk

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In the past five years alone we have seen broad steps taken towards the mainstream acceptance of mental health issues.

As someone who has struggled with mental health issues but only offers vague descriptions of my own personal journey, I feel that I should, at the very least, offer some perspective as to how things have changed.

Particularly, with regards to my own experience. When I was finishing high school in 2012, I was completely convinced that I would be voted best dressed in our yearbook countdown list, along the likes of “Funniest” and “Prettiest” people in the school. My dismay upon discovering that that particular title went to a kid who only wore Hollister and sported a faux-hawk was very real.

My own disappointment aside, it would have been a much easier pill to swallow had I not been voted “Most likely to end up in a straight jacket”. At the time, I brushed it off. “It’s just a joke,” was the response most people had when I expressed disgust, yet I felt compelled to play along for fear of being an obstruction on everyone else’s good time.

This is something I still think about every now and then, but particularly when Bell Let’s Talk swings around, because a number of the people who thought I’d end up in a straight jacket were also champions of the movement, even back then in its earlier stages.

The problem on my end is, while all of these people were tweeting about how to “keep the conversation open,” none of them for a second had considered my previous experiences with mental health.

Essentially it comes down to this: practice what you preach. Yeah, you got a hundred retweets on your Bell Lets Talk hashtag, but you also trivialized someone’s mental health.

Especially, before casting their vote on this bullshit-ass, meaningless yearbook staple. I would like to think that high school yearbooks no longer have these types of problematic titles, but I don’t even know what high schools are like these days. I would like to assume they are a little bit more progressive by now. All of that aside, it wasn’t a very good experience for me, and even when I tried to explain that to my peers, they told me I was overreacting and made me feel like I was in the wrong.

I will admit: it was a far cry for me to expect that any of them might have paid any attention to all of the vintage Ralph Lauren pieces I carefully curated from thrift stores — at least definitely not enough to have considered me “best dressed.”But I digress. When I “overreacted” in that particular scenario, my peers were essentially gaslighting me into believing, among other things, that I might actually belong in a straight jacket.

I’m not as salty as all of this might imply, to be honest.

I still consider at least some of those peers to be friends, though very few of them made the attempt to reach out or see it from my point of view.  In the time, I genuinely believed I was overreacting.

But in hindsight, why the fuck would anyone want that title?

Especially when none of the people who voted on it even talked to me outside of the classroom, or in the classroom for that matter. They just thought I was weird.

Deep in my heart I know that if I was more honest about how I felt and adamant about it being problematic, this type of thing would have never happened.

But I’m happy to know that in 2018 I no longer have to defend or justify my experiences regarding my own mental health. Not to my peers. Not to anyone.

I’m sure that if I told some of those people how they made me feel that they would in turn feel awful about it, and that isn’t the goal here either.

At the end of the day, I would like to think that I now have a sense of humour about it. I even posted it on Instagram, so I can’t be that upset about, right?

I’ve always been the type of person to “own” that type of thing, so at the end of the day who knows?

Essentially it comes down to this: practice what you preach. Yeah, you got a hundred retweets on your Bell Lets Talk hashtag, but you also trivialized someone’s mental health.

Really I just wish 17-year-old me gave less of a fuck about what his peers thought, but you know what they say: wish in one hand and shit in the other.

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