January 25th is the annual Bell Let’s Talk Day, where every time you tweet #BellLetsTalk or if you are on the Bell network, every text, donates 5 cents to mental health initiatives around the country. I have friends who are both in support of and against this movement, and they have legitimate reasons for both. For me, I am in full support of it, with maybe a little bit of a caveat. I think that it’s important that we talk about the struggles of mental health in our country, for everyone. I think everyone needs to know that it doesn’t matter what your age, what you socioeconomic background, race, religion, gender, anything, mental health issues do not discriminate.
Bell Let’s Talk Day is designed to get people to talk about mental illness, to raise awareness about it, to de-stigmatize it, raise money to provide better mental health care for all Canadians. So here’s my little caveat; as important as I think it is for this day to happen, it should be remembered that in order to help de-stigmatize mental illness, the conversation cannot just be this one day a year, it should be all the time. I try to talk about it often here, because I struggle with anxiousness and the more I talk about my struggles, the more I feel like I can take it on because I have other people say to me, “Hey I struggle with that too.” It makes me feel less like I’m alone in my fight. We need to let our fellow humans know that they’re not alone in their fight at every time of the year, not just on Bell Let’s Talk Day.
I’ve heard some people say that Bell shouldn’t “hold their donation hostage” and make people tweet and text, and just give the money. Fair, I can see that side of the argument for sure, and in some ways I agree, but also, part of me disagrees as well. I think the whole idea of this, “tweet with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk to donate 5 cents to mental health initiatives!” or “if you’re on a Bell network, send loads of texts and every text will donate money” is to actually give people initiative to talk about it that might not otherwise. I know it’s not a perfect system, there are definitely some flaws, but if more people become aware the mental illness does not discriminate, it does not mean that you’re “crazy” or that you’re a “psycho” that it’s okay to talk about, then maybe things will get better. Maybe I’m just an optimist and naïve, but I truly want to be in a world where it’s okay to talk about what you’ve gone through and not be looked at differently.
One of my favourite actresses, someone I thoroughly look up to, has been talking about her fight with mental health lately, and it’s nice knowing that even the people I look up to struggle. Everyone seems to know her as the voice of Anna in Frozen, or that girl who cried over sloths on Ellen, but to me, Kristen Bell, is a wonderful force to be reckoned with. She played Veronica Mars (and if you know anything about me, you know that that is my absolute favourite show, it gives me such comfort when I’m anxious) but she’s also this voice who is speaking up, and it’s nice to here a celebrity talk about their anxiety and depression, and how they refuse to be ashamed of it. She talks so candidly about it in this article on Motto (that you can check out here) and it’s nice to have a person with a voice and has a huge stage talk about mental health. Normalizing it, and trying to take the taboo away from talking about it.
I think we all need to do our part to make this Bell Let’s Talk Day a great one for everyone who struggles. I know that people feel like there are some who only support this initiative on this one day a year, and then do nothing for the other 364 days, but the majority of them are not doing out of malice, but out of ignorance. The more we take the other 364 days of the year and talk about this, the more that people will feel comfortable talking about it, and then the more people who might actually become informed and work towards this brighter future where mental illness is not taboo and people are not “crazy” for struggling. Again I may be an optimist and a bit naïve, but I refuse to let negativity take ahold of this day that brings a little bit more awareness and light to such a heart wrenching and dark topic.
Honestly, if it wasn’t for things like the struggles of the people I love so much, people who I look up to talking about it, and this day made to talk, I might not be as open as I am about my own struggles. I might have kept it buried and away from people. I might have let it consume me and continue to sit in the dark. I’m determined though, to be a brighter light, to be a listening ear, and to be a voice who won’t be ashamed of speaking out for myself and for those who aren’t ready yet to speak out.
So, get your thumbs ready friends, because come this January 25th, I will be tweeting up a storm! #BellLetsTalk