Today is Bell Let’s Talk day, a campaign that has four initiatives, one of which is recognizing the importance of destigmatizing mental health challenges. The campaign started in 2010 and Olympian Clara Hughes has been speaking up and out throughout its years. She has been open about her life with depression. Other celebrities have added their voices to the campaign along the way, including Mary Walsh, Howie Mandel, Serena Ryder and Michel Mpambara.
The list of those championing mental health awareness goes on. We all should be on the list.
We all live with different experiences of mental health. Some are more obviously pained and strained than others, struggling to manage a balanced, independent life, yet no one is immune to needing help; 1 in 5 Canadians will in their lifetimes. A catastrophic event, health changes, a divorce, a death- any of these things could be the start of challenges.
What exactly is mental health and where can it go awry? In an article focused on workplace wellness, the Mental Health Commission of Canada has produced a chart illustrating a version of the continuum of mental health. It lists four states of mental health (healthy, reacting, injured, ill), symptoms and actions for each state. The Conference Board of Canada expands this to five states; Together to Live, a resource to address youth suicide, uses a framework that recognizes one can have a diagnosed mental illness and still achieve mental well-being with sufficient support and resources. This is part of a piece that recognizes the importance of meeting the mental health needs of youth; I couldn’t agree more.
Fighting stigma is one of the pillars of the #BellLetsTalk campaign, and it’s a vital one. Mental health stigma must be fought, and we also need to see other layers of stigma that can mean some populations struggle more with mental health vulnerabilities.
Significant social issues contribute to how First Nations people are stigmatized. Racism, the effects of colonialism and lack of hope influence mental health and suicide attempts of Indigenous people in Canada, and especially youth. Suicide rates among Indigenous youth are five to seven times the rates in non-Indigenous populations. A coroner’s report from Quebec last year blamed Canada’s apartheid and lack of mental health services for the suicides of five community members in 2015. On so many levels, the situation for Indigenous Canadians must change.
Communities need help to heal and energize hopeful futures; a difficult challenge at this point in many communities. A group in the Vancouver area is taking this on with a collective impact model program called Our Place. It is aimed at supporting at risk Indigenous youth and families.
Stigma plays out in other communities too. Homophobia and transphobia are faced by many lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer (LGBTQ) people. LGBTQ youth are four times more likely to attempt suicide than heterosexual peers. A study of 380 trans Ontarians found 35% had considered suicide in the year of the study.
These are just two groups battling stigma that can lead to mental health breakdown, but every one of us is fighting our own battles with life that can lead to mental health imbalance. It is amazing how many problems we can carry and carry on, but some may reach a point where they can’t carry on as usual. There should be no shame in saying so.
We all know someone who has struggled with their mental health, but they may not have felt safe to speak up. Bell is trying to change the environment so anyone who needs to speak up can. Bell is contributing money for every text, call, tweet and Instagram post, Facebook video view and more. The money gets put toward their four intiatives: anti-stigma, care and access, research and workplace health. Be an advocate today with #BellLetsTalk.