This year the Bell Let’s Talk campaign set a record with 125,915,295 tweets, texts, shares, and calls.
As a result, 6.3 million dollars was raised for Canadian mental health initiatives.The stigma surrounding mental health has plagued Canada for years.
Bell Let’s Talk day works to combat this stigma across the country by creating a public discussion. Each year, Bell donates five cents for every text or call on its network, as well as every Facebook share and tweet using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk.
Mental Health Awareness
According to the Canadian Institute of Health Research, one in five Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life. Often times people living with mental illness do not come forward due to fear.
Nicole Morgan, a mental health nurse at the Niagara Health System, says the Bell Let’s Talk campaign has had a positive effect on nation-wide conversation about mental health awareness.
“I think a lot of people find it awkward to talk about mental illness, but Bell Let’s Talk day encourages people to talk. I think the more that people talk about mental illness, the more society will accept it as real illness that needs to be treated just as other medical illnesses such as cancer and diabetes would be,” says Morgan.
Last year, #BellLetsTalk was the second most popular hashtag on Twitter in Canada. Aside from the federal election, it was the number one trend on Twitter worldwide.
This has resulted in 450,000 people who have received mental health treatment through a Bell Let’s Talk funded program since it began.
Cate Racher is a Sheridan College student who has faced her own struggles with mental illness.
Jessie Naylor, another Sheridan student who has struggled with mental illness, also believes there are benefits to the Bell initiative, but understands the other side of the debate as well.
“I think it can be beneficial with making people feel more comfortable with what they’re going through, and knowing that others aren’t judging them the way their minds tell them they are,” Naylor says, “but I think there can be negative aspects because a lot of people who have mental illness are a little more closed off and sometimes regardless of acceptance they still don’t feel comfortable sharing their story with everyone.”
The Impact in Ontario
Since the campaign began in 2011 there has been a steady increase in the amount of money raised by the telecommunications company. For Ontarians, the money has been distributed to a variety of institutions throughout the province.
Does It Really Help?
The amount of money raised may seem like a lot, but it is not enough. Mental illness costs the Canadian government $50 billion each year. Many initiatives and resources associated with mental health are often underfunded or overlooked.
“The obvious benefit is that it raises money for mental health which is desperately needed in our health care system,” Morgan stresses.
Many people question where the money ends up. Based on statistics and information gathered from the Bell Let’s Talk website, the donations are distributed to different organizations such as community agencies, hospitals, and universities, as well as community funds ranging from 5,000 to 25,000 to help fund local charitable programs.
“Do I think social media activism will help individuals with mental illness? Definitely not. But even if it helps a few people I think we’re taking steps in the right direction,” Morgan adds.