Since both Melanie and I have struggled with our mental health to varying degrees, I figured it was important for us to make a post to mark today. Bell Canada is dedicating today to mental health awareness, and donates 5 cents toward mental health initiatives for every text sent over their network, and every Facebook post or tweet of theirs shared.
I’ve always liked that they do this – for about a month leading up to Bell Let’s Talk Day, there are posters in the subways and scattered throughout the city. They even have commercials! It’s basically impossible to escape the ads. Bell’s Let’s Talk Day is only one day of raising funds, but it’s probably close to a month of awareness raising. A lot of people I know are very open about discussing mental health over social media, so this isn’t unusual for me. I see a lot of articles shared about anxiety, depression, and personality disorders every single day, and I’m proud that I know so many people who are open about their struggles or acknowledge their friends’ conditions in this way.
I’m also aware that most of the world doesn’t communicate so openly about mental health. There is still a huge stigma around the topic, and I am privileged to be part of a group that discusses it relatively openly.
I also recognize that Bell Let’s Talk isn’t perfect. Every single one of their spokespeople is privileged in their whiteness and their wealth. On the flip side, that’s just a biproduct of a larger societal phenomenon – most of our celebrities, the people that we’ll recognize in an advertisement, are white and wealthy. I hope people look at the ads and think, “Oh, Clara Hughes! I remember her gold medals from the Olympics. I wonder what she’s dealing with.” or, “Hey, I’ve seen Howie Mandel on TV – what’s up with him?” When you realize that people who struggle with mental health can overcome that and succeed in spite of their struggles, that’s powerful. We aren’t lost causes just because we aren’t “standard”.
I hope the Bell Let’s Talk campaign can come to a point where it explicitely can bring our attention away from celebs and back to our neighbours and family and the person next to us on the subway, but it’s also important to take the first step and look at Clara Hughes and realize that people who struggle with mental health can have fulfilling lives without hiding what they’re dealing with.
I encourage everyone to keep an open mind not only today, but on all the other days of the year. Let’s work to get to a point where all people have access to mental health services, and where we can treat therapy sessions just the same as any routine medical checkup. There’s a lot of work to do, sure, but this is a start.
And, of course, since it does not go without saying – if you’re struggling with anything and you need someone to listen: I may not understand what you’re going through, but dammit I’ll try.