January 28th is Bell Let’s Talk Day; an initiative by Bell Canada to help end the stigma around mental health. For every tweet using #BellLetsTalk, Bell donates $0.05 to the cause.
One of the main reasons people don’t seek treatment for mental health issues is due to stigma. People are embarrassed and ashamed to admit they are suffering and thus they suffer in silence. With mental health issues, not seeking proper treatment can be deadly.
Here are some chilling statistics:
2 out of 3 people don’t seek help because of fear of judgment and rejection
- Canadian Medical Journal
20% of Canadians will experience some form of mental illness at one point in their lives
- Canadian Health Research
3 million Canadians are experiencing depression right now
- Canadian Mental Health Association
20% of post-secondary students have engaged in self-harm
- Mental Health Commission of Canada
We live in a society that encourages and promotes perfection. From the unattainable photoshopped magazine spreads, advertisements telling us what we need to buy in order to be better, to the constant bombardment of social media outlets that highlight the illusion of perfect lives, to the embedded social construct of the “American Dream”, we are all striving for something. That striving causes us to feel like we just don’t measure up; that we’re not good enough as we are. This in turn can lead to a number of mental health issues including addictions, eating disorders and depression.
The illusion of a perfect society is the exact barrier that encourages shame among those who are suffering. As one may say “Everyone else is fine. No one will understand. I’ve just gotta keep going. I’ll shake it off.” In reality, that line of thinking does not work when it comes to addressing mental health. You can’t “shake off” depression. It is an illness that needs to be treated.
Initiatives like this create an open dialogue around mental illness and make it okay to speak about. If someone came out and said they had cancer, everyone would rally around with support and compassion. When someone says they’re depressed, they can be met with sentiments like “you’ll be fine”, “nothing’s wrong with you”, “you’re being a suck” etc. When someone gets on the bus or the subway in obvious mental distress often they are met with stares and glares instead of compassion; compassion for seeing someone who is suffering, someone who is in crisis, someone who needs support.
We all need to acknowledge that life is complicated at times. That we’re not always doing okay and that is okay. Speaking about mental health and creating a dialogue around it is the only way to begin the process of overcoming the stigma and shame that surrounds it.
Do your part by supporting Bell Let’s Talk Day by sending a tweet using #BellLetsTalk. Be part of the change.