Today is the annual Bell Let’s Talk Day, a day which holds a deeply personal significance to me. I attribute the public outpouring of millions of people sharing their stories of dealimg with mental illness a few years ago with helping plant the necessary seeds in my head to finally get the help I desperately needed for depression and anxiety four years ago. Seeing the likes of Clara Hughes and Michael Landsberg open up about battling crippling depression really opened my eyes and made me gradually come to grips with the fact that I might have the dreaded ‘d word.’
In January of 2013, after my second mental breakdown within a couple of months (due to an assortment of pent up factors like money stress, uncertainty with a change in employment, the winter blues, etc), I finally reached a breaking point and went to see my doctor to help start me on the path to healing. Because I kept everything bottled up inside for so long the floodgates opened and I HAD to get help or I might not be here to tell the tale. But I am so happy I had enough wherewithal to take that first step and ask for help. My folks were so amazing during that major period of transition and they’ve been my rock ever since.
Within a week of getting officially diagnosed with depression and starting the journey of returning to normal (well, as normal as I ever was) it happened to be Bell Let’s Talk Day. You have no idea how much it helps someone suffering with a mental illness to hear other people’s stories and how therapeutic it is to share your own. You quickly find out that once you are open about your illness that you are not alone. People who you think are super confident and have it going on are secretly broken inside. Like you they are usually able to put on the mask while they’re in public. In a weird way knowing that there are tons of other awesome people who are just as fucked up as you are is pretty liberating.
When I first went public I had so many family members, friends, coworkers, and acquaintances give me kind words of support and helpful tips on reading material and medication. And now that I’m used to officially living with depression and anxiety I’ve payed it forward by reaching out to others who are taking that important first step in getting help. It feels incredible to be able help others who are in the same boat.
Now, of course it is easy to be cynical about Bell’s alterior motives behind this massively successful campaign. In fact, CBC just reported a story about a woman who was fired at a Bell radio station for needing some time off work to adjust to her new SSRI medication for depression and anxiety. It’s nerve wracking trying a new medication. I’m currently on my second antidepressant but I was able to plan ahead and take some days off just in case my body didn’t react well to them. Not everyone is so lucky. So if this woman’s story is true then Bell should be ashamed of themselves. If it is strictly an individual station manager making a shitty decision then Bell should rectify the situation and rehire that woman and fire or transfer that station manager. If Bell promotes a wonderful message like ‘Let’s Talk’ then they better damn well practice what they preach.
Regardless of any nefarious reasons behind this corporate giant’s campaign, credit still has to be given due because this campaign has raised millions of dollars towards mental health initiatives, plus the stigma of mental illness is gradually fading away. The number one reason all major corporations engage in philanthropy is to improve their brand and make them seem like there are human beings behind the monolithic corporate machine. But if the end result does some legitimate good and helps thousands of people and changes the public discourse, then it’s worth it. It’s helped me and a I know firsthand that it’s helped lots of other people so you can’t be cynical of that.