Opinion: Bell Lets Talk is not enough

By Riley Brooks, for The Lambda

Today is Bell Lets Talk Day.

On this day, five cents for every tweet and retweet containing #BellLetsTalk and every text message sent on the Bell network will be donated to various Canadian mental health programs.

To most, however, it’s the day where people will tweet #BellLetsTalk and watch all the re-tweets and likes flood into their account. And that makes us feel good, because re-tweets and likes are the type of instant gratification that our generation so desperately longs for on social media.

So, on Jan. 27th, many of us are going to rally together for a great cause that everyone is extremely passionate about and are going to do our part to help those living with a mental illness!

Then January 28th rolls around… Where did everybody go? Was this massive wave of support truly genuine? Do people really even know what they are supporting when they tweet #BellLetsTalk?

The answers to those questions are probably no, and this is a problem.

But this is not a problem I believe people should be condemned for.

After all, the point of this day is to raise awareness and to end the stigma surrounding mental health.

Mental health is unique.

It is not visible, you cannot touch it, and it does not bleed. You cannot look at someone with depression the same as you can look at someone with a broken leg and say “wow, that must hurt.”

Yet, many of us have looked at people who are hurting and may or may not even know it.

One in five Canadians will deal with a mental health issue in their lifetime.

That means if you have not personally experienced a depressive episode, you might. This also means that if you don’t, your friends and family might, and you may never know because the stigma attached to mental health often forces those who are suffering to often go underground. To cope alone. To hide what they are living with.

Living with depression, anxiety, or any other form of mental illness is not some sort of flaw, defect or weakness as the stigma suggests.

The stigma boils my blood. Living with cancer, heart disease, diabetes or a broken bone is not considered a flaw, defect or weakness.

Living with mental illness is not a choice someone makes. It is an illness. An injury. And often, a forever one.

Understanding it requires the same level of compassion and understanding that every other illness and injury receives.

As humans, we are inclined to help our peers when they are sick or hurt.

When it comes to mental illness, we need to collectively broaden our willingness and our acceptance to help those who need it.

We need to broaden our willingness to help beyond just one day.

We need to broaden our willingness to help beyond a couple tweets and pretending to care.

A friend of mine once said: “A hashtag never saved anyone.”

Which is true: however, I also believe that this hashtag has the ability to educate people on how to help people and how to save them.

Let’s make 2016 the year where #BellLetsTalk turns into a 365-day campaign.

Let’s make it so that people are willing to end the stigma surrounding mental health and are willing to help those in need every day of the year.

Bell Let’s Talk day is incredible. It has incredible benefits and incredible potential for more. But this year, lets talk about mental health every day.

Let us do our part to end the stigma, beyond tweeting and caring for one day.

Having a mental illness is not a flaw or a weakness. Not helping someone in need is.