Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day… And Canadians Are Finally Starting to Speak

People are finally talking.

And in a big way.

In case you’ve somehow missed Bell Canada’s widespread campaign with six-time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes front and centre, today is the 5th annual Bell Let’s Talk Day. In a growing initiative to raise awareness about mental health in Canada, Bell will donate 5 cents in support of mental health for every long-distance call and every text message sent on the Bell network, and for every tweet that includes the #BellLetsTalk hashtag. Furthermore, with every Facebook share of today’s Bell Let’s Talk image, another 5 cents will be raised.

Launched in 2010, the day aims to shed light on the overlooked issue of mental illness and the stigma that’s surrounded it for years. 

The face of Bell Let’s Talk, national spokesperson Clara Hughes – who has been vocal about her own mental health struggles – has become synonymous with the campaign. Now, Hughes takes it a step further (well, actually 11,000 kilometres by bike further), with Clara’s Big Ride, a powerful and moving documentary that chronicles her epic 110-day bike journey across the country to help end the lingering stigma of mental illness.

Premiering today, the one-hour television special will be available all day on CraveTV and, before airing at 7:00 pm ET/PT in super-simulcast on CTV and CTV Two as well as being live-streamed on CTV GO.

Directed by acclaimed Canadian filmmaker Larry Weinstein, the film documents Hughes’ grueling journey across the country through the unpredictable Canadian elements, but the focus is on the moving stories of other young people affected by mental illness. You’ll laugh out loud at Hughes’ quick wit (seriously, you’ll fall in love with her), and tear up (ok, maybe bawl your eyes out) at some of the powerful words from those who were brave enough to share their stories.

We caught up with Hughes pre-screening last night at Toronto’s TIFF Bell Lightbox:

On Speaking Up Herself:

“When I was going through it, there was nothing like this to inspire me to address it. You really are in such a low spot that you really just want to hide, but it was the doctor on our national team who first talked to me about depression, explaining what it was and how I could get through what I was struggling with. At the time, I didn’t want her advice, and I didn’t believe her. I just had this fight inside me like ‘I’m not sick, that’s not me.’ She saw it.”

“This was actually close to twenty years ago now that she actually took the time, when it wasn’t her role to do that. She was just doing a routine physical. I think back to that, and it planted the seed that, ‘You know what, this is an illness, it’s not your fault, and there are ways you can get help.’ But I was too stubborn.”

“I think that a lot of people feel that if they ‘admit’ it, it’s just going to get worse and spiral downward. But admitting it to yourself is the first step in getting help. That was the mistake I made – not admitting it to myself.”

On Recognizing Signs of Depression and Mental Illness in Friends: 

“Always be aware. Listen. Look for the signs. If you don’t know what those signs are – find out. There’s so many ways you can learn online. There’s so much literature out there. There’s so much exposure to mental illness right now in different forms to identify the different signs and symptoms that we all need to be better in recognizing them in our friends, family members, mates and teammates. We have a long way to go in understanding what it is, but in this campaign I have learned so much myself.”

“When you ask someone how they’re doing and they say, ‘Yeah, yeah, I’m good,’ sometimes if you take another moment to ask how they’re really doing, you’ll get an immediately different response.”

On the Film:

 “I just really hope it’s going to educate people, because it’s showing so many faces to mental illness. It’s really not even about the ride, and I think people will be surprised if they think it’s all about riding a bike across Canada. It’s about some phenomenal stories from young Canadians who have struggled, have gotten through, and many who are still struggling.”

“I just want people to see that this can affect anyone, but you can do many other things if you’ve struggled. You can go on and get a life that is extraordinary; I think that this shows it very well. It shows a bit of riding too.”

Thanks to initiatives like the campaign, even more people will choose to speak up rather than suffer in silence.

Whether you’re affected by a mental illness or not, you can still join the conversation today.

You’re going to be talking, texting, and tweeting today anyway – make it count.


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