As marketing schemes go, this was a good one. Bell, Canada’s telecommunications giant, has been ramping up to February 12th, choosing that day to put mental health in the limelight.
I know this brought them a great deal of publicity, but I don’t have a problem with that. The money they spent on this campaign could easily have gone to slick commercials and a cadre of spin doctors figuring out how to make saving a nickle look like something worth the money and effort needed to invest in getting signed up for that “save a nickle” program.
Instead, Bell chose, if not to talk about the hard subjects themselves, to fund them, to shine a nonjudgmental light on mental health.
And whether knowingly or not, Bell made something else happen. On Facebook, Bell started a page for people to drop in and comment on their ‘Lets Talk’ initiative, and on mental health.
And people did start talking about mental health. As I watched, one Facebooker asked for help, for support. They said they needed help “today, not tommorow, TODAY!” Without hesitation, others began to offer advice on the best way to get that help.
As if that wasn’t enough, the same thread went on to include two more people thanking the original poster for giving them the strength to seek help.
One page on Facebook, not a place that requires you to admit upon registration that you have mental health issues, but a place in the open where anyone could wander in.
You might recall my complaining that there are no signs on Emergency room doors welcoming people with mental health issues. I said at the time, I felt that was stigmatizing enough to keep people away.
Bell’s page on Facebook with its “Lets Talk” promotion was like a welcome sign.
I watched, I saw what should work, work, and work well. It went beyond its purpose, beyond making mental health talk easy. It became a space where stigma was diminished.
Bell’s spokesperson for their Lets Talk campaign is Clara Hughes. I don’t know Clara Hughes personally. I would very much like to rectify that shortfall in my life, though I see little chance of that. But I know lots about her. She’s one of my heroes.
No less than six Olympic medals are hers. More over, she is one of only five people to have earned medals in both summer and winter Olympics and the only person ever to have earned multiple medals in each. This should be enough to cause hero worship, but there’s more.
After the 1996 Olympics, Clara descended into the dark world of depression. And she went there alone.
Olympian Clara Hughes is never completely alone, however, and with the help of Team Canada’s national team doctor, she has found her way back.
“[…] there are things that are there for us as athletes that are not there for regular Canadians […]” Clara said in an interview with George Stroumboulopoulos, showing that she recognized the need for more open discussion of mental health issues.
So lets all talk about it. Lets talk about mental health. Lets say the dirty words.
So lets all talk about it. Lets talk about mental health. Lets say the dirty words. Lets say ADHD and Asperger’s and Schizophrenia. Lets say depression and bipolar disorder, lets say OCD and ODD and all the others. And while we are saying these words, lets point at ourselves, at each other and say “Hey, world, we’re here. We’re good people, useful people. We have value. We have qualities you can’t see if you ignore us or dismiss us.
We need a little help, but it’s help easily given. It’s this: Stop pretending we don’t exist. Stop pretending we are broken. Stop talking about mental illness as if it were brought on by those of us who suffer from mental illness.
Help us make it better — before you need it to be better for yourself or your family. Please.
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Last reviewed: 15 Feb 2013