By Sharon Tindyebwa
Bell Canada is attempting to reduce the stigma around mental health by getting Canadians in on the conservation with its Let’s Talk Campaign.
For every tweet sent using #BellLetsTalk, and every text message and long distance call made by a Bell customer, the company will donate five cents to help fund mental health programs across Canada.
Bell is reporting that so far Canadians have made or sent 24,716,305 long distance calls, tweets and texts in support of the campaign.
Mental health professionals are welcoming the campaign as a way to increase awareness and raise funds for a commonly ignored social issue.
Michael Condra, director of health, counseling and disability services at Queens University said there are three commonly held misconceptions about mental health.
One is a belief that “mental health problems are relatively rare.” According to Health Canada, however, one in five people will develop a mental illness at some point in their life.
“The second misconception is that mental health problems are associated with the risk of violent behavior,” Condra told Humber News.
“In fact, except for those people with a mental health problem and a substance abuse problem, the risk of violent behavior among most individuals with mental health problems is no higher than in the general population.”
The third misconception is “that mental health problems are untreatable,” he said. But the reality is that “a huge percentage of the people who develop mental health problems will in fact, with effective help, social support and treatment, get better.”
With the stigma surrounding mental health, however, many Canadians with a mental illness do not seek the appropriate help.
According to the Centre for Addiction and Mental Health, only 50 per cent of Canadians would disclose to friends or colleagues that they have a family member dealing with a mental illness compared to 72 per cent who would discuss a family member’s cancer diagnosis.
Jen McMillen, Humber’s director of student access, wellness and development said the Bell campaign was important in fighting misunderstandings and helping people realize that “mental health problems are like any health problems” and require attention and treatment.
“People need to seek help and it’s not a character flaw,” she said.
Kids Help Phone has launched an initiative this year with Bell to go into schools across the country and speak to kids about mental health.
“When we talk about mental health the first thing we think about, and that was evident in the school assemblies we attended, is that talking about mental health seems to put a negative spin to it,” Pascale Guillotte, director of communications, told Humber News.
Kids Help Phone is trying to change this perception among children by letting them know that “everybody has mental health,” she said.
“Like everybody has physical health, everybody has mental health,” Guillotte said.
While the Let’s Talk Campaign day ends Tuesday, mental health advocates are hoping the conversation will have long lasting effects.
“The more you talk about it, the better it is for the mental health and well-being of kids who will grow up confident asking for help and will relay that to the next generation,” said Guillotte.
“I agree it’s just one day, but what it does is that it raises [mental health] into public consciousness…and they actually raise a lot of funds for mental health during that day,” said Condra.
“I think it’s up to the rest of us to make sure that the rest of the 365 days a year mental health doesn’t disappear from the agenda.”
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