Today is the day. Let’s talk.
Bell, Let’s Talk is one of Canada’s biggest national online campaign designed to support mental health and to end the stigma around mental illness. For every tweet with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, every share of the corresponding Facebook image posted by Bell, and every text or long-distance call made by a Bell customer, Bell will donate 5 cents to various mental health initiatives. So you can partake in the cause even if you have a Nokia 3310 or a Twitter account that has 3 tweets! No excuses! Since 2010, Bell has committed $100 million to mental health initiatives to Canada. From ETalk to TSN, Bell is opening the dialogue to Canadians today with featured programming such as the Marilyn Denis Show dedicating an episode to teens and addiction with Dr. Oz, and Prime Minister Justin Trudeau for a Q&A period on The Social. So take a second and tune in if you can. Let’s make today matter!
However, we all know a tweet or text to Bell can only do so much. The rest is all up to us. There has always been a negative stigma around mental health, and a common misconception that everyone is able to choose, so therefore they can control how they behave, think and feel. However, that is never the case, and it is important to recognize that.
We have all been hurt, or have hurt someone else in our lives. We all have our own struggles and battles to fight, even the quirkiest or most cheerful people we know. I am no different. As I sit here and reflect, I am reminded that we all have a story to tell that makes us who we are today. Throughout my life, there have been times, on more than one occasion, where I didn’t see the light at the end of the tunnel. It started at the beginning of high school because I was bullied. I felt helpless. Numb. Depressed. I was a good actress though. I would wake up with a fake smile on my face ready to conquer the world; when in reality, I was thinking of all the ways that could end the pain and humiliation faster. Months went by and although there were sunnier days, the possibility was still at the back of my mind. I suffered in silence because of a stigma I didn’t want to face. I felt inadequate and stupid for existing. I felt like my thoughts were trivial and embarrassing. Were they though? Nonetheless, I eventually managed to stop obsessing and stowed those painful memories away instead at the beginning of Grade 12. I started to take a step forward and decided to start living my life. After all, I only had one year left and then I could move away for University. I couldn’t wait.
Fast forward five years later, I encountered another situation where I let the darkness consume me and swallow me whole. Since I never fully dealt with my past, it came haunting back as if it never left. It was a different type of struggle though, one where I felt suffocated. I was irrational and uncontrollable. And when the person I thought would care the most didn’t even flinch, I mentally broke down once and for all. That night, my friends and family could have lost me. I tried to recover afterwards, but I had never felt so alone. The self-loath and worthlessness chewed me up and spat me out. Weeks later, a careless mistake led me to spend a night in the hospital, and I realized I had to do something. This wasn’t working out for me anymore.
I took my first step in healing that following week. It wasn’t exactly sunshines and lollipops. It took awhile to get to where I am today. I masked my feelings and emotions behind partying and alcohol. I scheduled a few appointments with a therapist. I threw all my energy into mini projects instead of dealing with the giant elephant in the room. It wasn’t until a year later that I realized that all my methods were doing the exact opposite of healing. Nothing drastic has changed. I was just hiding behind my academic and social lives instead of confronting my mind face-on. So that day, I made a personal vow to set intentions behind my actions and spend time to nourish my mind, body, and soul.
Today, I am still healing.
I share my experiences because I have stopped being embarrassed and thinking my struggles are a burden. People jokingly ask me if I have an “off” button or how I am so perky all the time, but I wasn’t always the person I am today. I remind myself every day the battles I have conquered and am grateful to have the support system I didn’t think I deserve. I share my experiences in hopes of preventing someone else to suffer the way I did. If I was a bit braver, would I have gone that far down the rabbit hole? We all have friends, and we shouldn’t feel ashamed to ask for help despite of what people might think. Mental illnesses can take many forms, just as physical illnesses do. They are no different from one another. So why do we jump at the opportunity to help the sick or disabled, yet turn a blind eye on an issue that’s concerning the control centre of our body: our brain.
One in five Canadians experiences a mental health issue in their lifetime. Mental illnesses are not faults or flaws. It’s time we stop thinking that. They do not make us weaker or any less of a person, instead they help build and improve our character. Sometimes, we just need a little help getting to the place we want to go.
For those who are afraid to speak, just remember that you are not alone. You are more than your past, your struggles, and your insecurities. Above all, you are loved. And here’s a little tip: it gets better. It always does.
If you know someone that may be suffering. Simply ask and listen to show your support. One simple question can not only open a thousand doors, but can also save a life. There is power in conversation and human connection. You don’t have to be a professional or a doctor to help. You just need to be present and open-minded.
The fear of stigma is part of the illness. Let’s help break that stigma today.
Did you know?
60% of people with a mental health problem or illness won’t seek help for fear of being labeled
It is estimated that 10-20% of Canadian youth are affected by a mental illness or disorder – the single most disabling group of disorders worldwide
Suicide is among the leading causes of death in 15-24 year old Canadians, second only to accidents; 4,000 people die prematurely each year by suicide
Mental illness is a leading cause of disability in Canada
The disease burden of mental illness and addiction in Ontario is 1.5 times higher than all cancers put together and more than 7 times that of all infectious diseases. This includes years lived with less than full function and years lost to early death