By ASHLEY KOWITZ
Tomorrow people all across Canada will be taking part in Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign. The company is donating five cents to mental health initiatives each time someone sends a text message, makes a phone call, shares the Bell Let’s Talk image on Facebook or tweets using #BellLetsTalk.
In Canada one in five people suffer from a mental health issue at least once in their lifetime. However, according to the Canadian Alliance on Mental Illness and Mental Health, only four per cent of medical research funding goes to research for mental illness. Bell has contributed $62.5 million toward mental health initiatives since the program began in 2010.
Mary Deacon, chair of the Bell Let’s Talk mental health program, said the campaign has been very successful, adding that they take the strengths of the Bell brand and use these platforms to spread the word.
“Mental health is an issue whose time has come,” Deacon said. “The time is right for mental health to come out of the shadows. It’s a health issue to be treated as a health issue like any other that we face as citizens in Canada.”
While the campaign focuses on care and access, workplace health, and research surrounding mental illness, removing the stigma is one of their major initiatives.
Due to stigmas associated with mental illness, two-thirds of people living with a mental illness do not seek the help that they need to live a healthy life. According to the Canadian Medical Association website, only 49 per cent of Canadians said they would continue to socialize with a friend who has been diagnosed with a serious mental illness.
Patti Holm, a Kitchener resident, has a son who was diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia when he was 19 years old. Every day she has to deal with the stigma. She said people stay away from him and are afraid of him because they feel like they can catch the illness.
“My 94-year-old grandmother won’t say the word ‘schizophrenia.’ She calls it ‘the problem’ or ‘the sickness,’” Holm said.
With the money raised from the event, Bell will donate between $5,000 and $50,000 to organizations, agencies and hospitals that focus on increasing access to mental health care. Some of the institutions that they’ve helped across the country so far include Royal Ottawa Hospital Foundation, Centre for Addiction and Mental Health as well as Kids Help Phone.
Last year there were 96 million tweets, shares of the Facebook image and long distance calls. This resulted in Bell donating $4.8 million to mental health initiatives. This year Bell is hoping there will be more than 100 million tweets, shares of the Facebook image and long distance calls, which will result in $5 million in donations.
For more information, visit letstalk.bell.ca or check out #BellLetsTalk on Twitter.