Why Bell Let’s Talk Day is as Important as Ever

Last year, Bell Let’s Talk Day had one for the record books, generating 131,705,010 total messages of support and raising $6,585,250.50 more finding for Canadian mental health.

And you probably need no reminder that today is Bell Let’s Talk Day. It’s been all over billboards, commercials, and the news for the past few weeks.

What began in 2011 as a game-changing campaign has gained traction each year; beginning as a conversation before becoming a deafening, countrywide roar. For every applicable text, mobile and long distance call, tweet using #BellLetsTalk, Bell Let’s Talk Day video view on social media, use of the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or Snapchat filter, Bell will donate 5¢ to Canadian mental health initiatives.

Today, something powerful will happen: Most of us with active social media accounts will witness at least one person – likely someone we least suspect – “come out” with his or her mental health struggles to mark Bell Let’s Talk Day. Countless others will support the movement through various social media channels. More than just a rumble of chatter, it will start both online and offline conversations that are impossible to tune out.

Let me be the first to recognize and praise the gains we’ve seen in recent years when it comes to mental health and the smashing of its accompanying long-held stigma. We’ve seen countless celebrities reveal their own mental health struggles, viral campaigns (aside from Bell Let’s Talk) that tackle mental health, meditation replace detention in elementary schools, therapists available via video chat, and a handful of progressive companies increase their mental health benefits significantly.

The thing is, attention to mental health remains as important as ever – and I am talking about associated action to accompany the growing awareness. Although the stigma still lingers to a degree (though definitely not as intense), we have done so well in eroding it in such a short period of time. It’s now time for measurable change. Naturally, I’m far from the only one who thinks so; there’s currently a petition circulation calling for the government to treat mental health issues as seriously as physical health issues.

As CBC reported yesterday, a new campaign from Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) is calling on Ontario to treat mental illness like the flu, asking Ontario residents to sign an online petition. Currently, of the $54 billion that Ontario dishes out on healthcare, only $3.5 billion is allocated to mental health and addictions. Right now, waiting lists for therapists are long – at an average of five months, wait times could literally mean the difference between life and death – and therapy doesn’t come with a cheap price tag. The cost of therapy is especially a tough one to swallow for Toronto’s growing number of benefits-lacking freelancers (a career choice that isn’t without its own set of mental health risks).

There needs to be a greater understanding that – like cancer – nobody is immune to mental illness. It affects one in five Canadians a year; definitely somebody you know, whether it’s obvious or not. I promise you. Mental health is a life-threatening illness; it’s time we see some action and, frankly, a drop in the suicide stats.