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What Bell Let’s Talk Day means to me

Guest Author: Chelsie

This content contains explicit and sensitive information that may not be suitable for all ages.

This year, Bell is hosting their eighth annual “Let’s Talk Day” on Wednesday, January 31.

Let’s Talk is a day dedicated to raising awareness about mental illness through various media and social media platforms. Not only does this day inform the public about mental health, but it also encourages the public to start conversations about mental health because each tweet or Facebook/Instagram post with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, every Let’s Talk Snapchat filter used, and every text/long distance call from a Bell cell phone all equal a 5¢ donation from Bell to Canadian Mental Health Initiatives.

Social media tends to explode on this day, and though 5¢ per tweet may not seem like much, each hashtag adds up to make a huge difference. Every year the number of “interactions” has grown, and last year alone resulted in a new record of over $6.5 Million raised in one day (through 131,705,010 Let’s Talk interactions). Since the first Let’s Talk Day in 2011 Bell has donated $86.5 Million to Mental Health Programs, which has allowed 740,145 Canadians to access mental health care when they otherwise may not have been able to do so.

This means that 740,145 human lives have been changed (possibly even saved) by being able to access therapy, medications, crisis lines, support groups, and coping skills that did not exist in their lives prior to the initial Let’s Talk Day. That’s huge, but that’s merely the quantitative measure. That number doesn’t account for all of the people whose lives are impacted by those interactions; the people like me.

This means that 740,145 human lives have been changed (possibly even saved)

Let’s Talk Day has come to mean so much to me that I take the day off work just so I can devote my day to keeping up on social media and doing my part to generate more of those 5¢ interactions (as someone who generally has little interest in social media spending the day online means a lot).

My love for this day comes from the conversations it sparks. The preceding month holds thought-provoking commercials that initiate conversations between families and friends. On the day of, Canadian news and talk shows dedicate their airtime to interviewing people who live with mental illness and the professionals who dedicate their lives to help them. Journalists share staggering statistics to inform the public and encourage the de-stigmatization of mental illness. Celebrities speak candidly about their struggles with mental illness and their familiarity helps humanize psychiatric symptoms. Further, Let’s Talk Day provides the public with a platform. It allows the people that feel silenced to feel heard.

Anyone whose life has been touched by mental illness understands how profound that can be. An entire day devoted to engaging in conversations about a cause so close to our hearts is an incredible gift that creates community and comfort.

Anyone whose life has been touched by mental illness understands how profound that can be.

For people affected by mental illness, discovering that your neighbour/cousin/colleague/high school crush has the same dark places in their mind that you have in yours has a significant impact. Knowing that there is someone in your life who understands the complexities of the hell you’ve been through can literally be life-altering. Knowing that your “personal hell” isn’t personal can help initiate your escape from it. That tweet or text can look like a life preserver in a hurricane swell.

Mental illness is a battle most often fought internally; in isolation. Let’s Talk Day sheds light on the battlefield and shows us how many other warriors there are fighting alongside us. It tells us that no matter how lonely we feel, we are not alone. I can’t explain how significant that message is to someone stuck in the darkness. Feeling that your heart is heard (and that your madness is meaningful) is like finally getting those deep breaths during a panic attack.

They’re actually joining a chorus that exists in the chaos.

Let’s Talk Day gives people the confidence to sing their story out loud when they find out that they aren’t singing the solo – they’re actually joining a chorus that exists in the chaos. People open up because Let’s Talk Day allows them to feel safe, supported, and understood (all of which are feelings that break the cycle of stigma, shame, and silence). It allows sufferers to feel like survivors because the stories shared on this day carry messages of hope, help, and healing.

I am someone who lives with depression and anxiety. There are phases when my illness intensifies and periods when it softens. I feel like depression sometimes creates this empty void inside of me, and Let’s Talk Day fills that void–even if it’s just one day a year. It’s a day that fills my heart and mind with compassion. In the throes of depression, even one day of relief, support, understanding, and acceptance could literally mean the difference between life and death (as someone who has walked along the edge of suicide without falling over, I know this is true). Words matter. Community matters.

I am fortunate enough to be someone who has reached out for help and received it. That’s not to say there weren’t some bumps in the road (medications with suicidal side effects and therapists I could never develop therapeutic relationships with) but depression never affected my stubbornness. I was literally dead-set on finding help. As someone who was suicidal, I decided that if I was willing to do anything to die I might as well be willing to do anything to live first. There was music and art and there were films and books that assured me that there was a possibility of change. Those messages of hope and healing may have saved my life, and Let’s Talk Day gives me the same feeling; the same comfort in the arms of hope.

Words matter. Community matters.

If you’ve read this far – I’m counting on YOU to help this mission.

If you live in Canada and have a Bell cell phone: send some texts to reconnect with old friends (turn off your iMessage fellow iPhone users!) and make some long distance phone calls to that family member you’ve been meaning to talk to.

If you’re a Canadian without a Bell cell phone, or you live literally anywhere else in the world, you can still help! Contribute to the conversation on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter by using #BellLetsTalk. Send your friends a funny photo with the #BellLetsTalk Snapchat filter. If you’re someone who posts a lot on social media, tag your regular posts with #BellLetsTalk on January 31; just for the hell of it.

Please play your part; participate in a miracle.

You can choose to have your ordinary posts contribute a 5¢ donation to Canadian Mental Health Initiatives, and it costs you absolutely nothing (every RT/repost counts as a 5¢ donation as well!). You can make a difference, even just by sitting on your couch. You can save a life while you’re on a bus. You can show that social media can have a positive impact on real people. You can show that you won’t stand for stigma against mental illness. You can use social media to make a real social chance. Please play your part; participate in a miracle.

Statistics from this article can be found here.

Comments

melroseyfung
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Around 8 years ago, I travelled to Montreal to attend a Habs playoff game with my family. Being that we flew from Calgary, we took every moment to soak in all of the pregame celebrations around Montreal. We ended up running into Michael Landsberg. As a big fan of his, we stopped to ask for a photo. Michael sat with my family and took the few minutes to listen, to ask questions, to care about our stories of travelling across Canada as a family for the team we so passionately loved. A member of his staff advised him that it was time for him to run to lunch and he politely told the staff he’d be there in a couple of minutes. Seems silly, but I felt so special in that moment.

Who knew my “friendship” with Michael Landsberg would only get stronger as the years went on. Following Michaels #SickNotWeak journey provided me with a comfort blanket. I used the excuses to myself that I cared about him because of how kind he was to my family that day in Montreal – but the truth is looking back, I cared about him because his feelings were my feelings. I could hang on to tweets of his that I needed in moments of my life where I didn’t have the strength to get help for my own mental illness struggles.

I thank Michael Landsberg and the Bell Lets Talk initiative for allowing me the strength and having the “friend” beside me as I, at my most vulnerable state entered a doctors office and poured my heart out about my struggles with anxiety and the power that it has over my life. Today I live differently. The anxiety still there, but with an army of therapists, doctors, tools and close family friends, and Michael Landsberg in my corner – I know that I have support, an ear who will always listen, and an squad of strength. My hope today is that we continue to break down those walls. So that the stigma ends.

sharon lapierre
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sorry my email address doesn’t work. I am sitting here watching tv. bell lets talk. I am sick. I have gone for help many times and it has not help. I have been on med. for years. I have no problem talking about it. being sick sucks. know one can understand this.

Chelsie
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WE understand it Sharon. I understand it. It absolutely sucks. I’m so sorry that you havent been given the right help yet, but please know that it is out there. You are important. Your story matters. There are people that care about who you are and what you’re going through, and I am one of those people.

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