Bell Let’s Talk needs to become Bell Let’s Act

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The way we discuss mental health still needs to change.

Awareness means nothing without action

Bell Let’s Talk is flawed.

Now don’t get me wrong, I think having a big, multi-million dollar company annually promoting the need for mental health care while empowering people to speak on their struggles while donating hoards of money to initiatives is great. In execution, however, I think Bell Let’s Talk frequently misses the mark. They miss the mark for one simple fact:

Mental health awareness needs to be more than just talking about it. It means nothing if we don’t take action.

Is opening the floor to where people feel comfortable sharing their mental health struggles and journeys great? Absolutely, and there’s no way I would discourage that. I would, however, suggest that we take it a step further. After you’ve shared your experience, then what?

Sharing stories of struggle feels empty and hollow if it isn’t followed up by sufficient action to help those in need.

Let me put it into perspective with the ever-common physical-versus-mental-health analogy. Let’s say I broke my arm because I fell off a fence in the school yard. Around comes a day at school where I feel comfortable enough to share the story of a possibly-traumatic event that left me with an injury. If the response to my speech is “wow, you’re so brave” rather than “holy shit we need to fix that fence,” the acknowledgement of my “bravery” feels fairly belittling.

That’s essentially what Bell Let’s Talk is. Bell Let’s Talk is the metaphorical broken fence that never gets fixed, only promoting more injury.

But, like a lot of every-day dilemmas, there isn’t one set person or thing to blame. No one in specific is at fault for the flaws in the Bell Let’s Talk logic. The only fair way to respond would be to place pressure on all parties that could actually invoke change. That should be what Bell Let’s Talk is all about.

Share your stories, open up about your truth and struggles, and use that passion and vulnerability to force governments, corporations, millionaires – everyone with the power to make a change – make a change.

Bell Let’s Talk often runs into the problem of only assisting with “socially acceptable” mental illnesses, i.e. the illnesses that are most widely talked about. When it comes to illnesses such as borderline personality disorder, post-traumatic stress disorder, schizophrenia, the comfort in sharing these stories seems to differ greatly.

An anonymous writer, for an article for Freedom Of The Mind – a UK based website for a mental health festival – wrote: “so when it’s “Time to Talk”, what is really meant is that it’s time to discuss the palatable aspects of mental health, while brushing the unpalatable under the nearest rug.”

“The kind of childhood trauma I experienced belongs in a different society, somehow. In a world of paedophile celebrities or grooming gangs or trafficking or whatever you can read in the tabloids. It doesn’t belong in leafy suburbia with respectable families.”

This is exactly the flaw with societal stigma surrounding mental health and Bell Let’s Talk.

I have deeply struggled with mental health, especially so in 2019, but because of my privilege, income, and home life, I’m able to afford and find a lot of mental health supports that others are not able to access. I’m able to afford to go to a counsellor off-campus with short wait times.

But what about other people who are struggling and aren’t offered what I have been?

Bell is a multi-million dollar corporation, and it feels as though, as a brand, they’re profiting off of mental health awareness by doing the bare minimum toward making a difference. They are encouraging people to discuss their struggles while donating a minuscule amount to mental health initiatives while not actively making any attempt at better standards for their own employees, let alone the rest of their country.

In fact, conditions at Bell were so bad that CBC released an article entitled “Bell’s ‘Let’s Talk’ campaign rings hollow for employees suffering panic attacks, vomiting and anxiety,” and notes that taking stress leave is a common practice for many employees.

So, really then, what’s the point of Bell Let’s Talk? Because if it’s to end stigma, it isn’t doing a very good job, and if it’s to better conditions for those suffering, that’s laughable.

So, take this time to be transparent about your struggles with anxiety and depression, then demand that your higher ups offer better health care services. Tell your truth about schizophrenia, then demand that mental health education surpasses the “socially acceptable” illnesses that are mainstream to talk about. Share your experience with PTSD, and then demand that the government assists in providing adequate coverage for counselling support, medication, and time off.

When Bell says that it’s time to talk, it’s really time to talk. It needs to be about more than just sharing our struggles, it needs to be about demanding better support for them as well.

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