Hot Take: #BellLetsTalk for more than just a day

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Today is #BellLetsTalk day, meaning your social media feeds will most likely be full of people sharing stories about their mental health struggles or simply posting the hashtag.

Every year for the past nine years on Jan. 29, Bell has donated five cents to mental health initiatives in Canada for every use of the hashtag #BellLetsTalk in tweets, snapchat filters and texts through their network.

The day has helped to start the conversation surrounding mental health and allow for the conversation to be open and informative. But we need more than just one day where people are talking about their experiences.

The past couple years I have noticed that people are very open and engaged on the day, but in the days following life goes back to normal and mental health becomes somewhat of a taboo topic once again; A topic that is hard to discuss with people, regardless if a person posted on #BellLetsTalk day, because the stigma is still there.

As a person who has poor mental health, I tend to look at this day in a different light then most people in my life. Yes, I will still be sending out all my snapchats with the filter and I will be tweeting about the day, but I almost see this day as kind of a downer.

I feel as though people really care about me and the struggles I face, but then I am reminded the next day that nothing has really changed, and I am not someone who needs help the most.

The biggest issue I see surrounding the day is that, regardless of how much money is raised and donated, nothing structural ever seems to change.

In a 2013 report from the Mental Health Commission of Canada it was stated that society “becomes designed by and for people without mental illnesses” and makes it so there are structural stigmatizations that are reinforced by law. This structural stigma can both intentional and unintentional, but nevertheless it still is prevalent in our society.

The day cannot just be about posting a hashtag and forgetting about the people who really need help.

There needs to be structural changes happening in our society to help those who need it for more than just one day. There should be a bigger focus on reworking our institutional policies, which have ineqaulities woven into them. When there are these inequalities, stigma becomes the norm and is brushed off as something that cannot be fixed.

#BellLetsTalk needs to be reworked and readjusted for the changing world that we are in. I do believe that when it began in 2010 it was very much needed, as the idea of mental health was very stigmatized.

But now that a culture shift is occurring and everyone is so open and willing to talk on the day, we need to move forward in planning a new way to improve the structural aspects surrounding it.

Simply talking about mental health is good, but until we can help people access proper mental health care and services, the issues surrounding mental health today will not change.

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