Today is Bell Let's Talk Day. It's a great initiative that donates $0.05 for every text sent by Bell customers today as well as every tweet, when folks use the #BellLetsTalk hashtag. The money will go towards supporting their four pillars including anti-stigma, care & access, workplace health and research. Which is really awesome.
And since its inception, it's been incredible to see people using this day to share their stories and speak candidly about mental health and mental illness.
But combating the stigma associated with mental illness isn't going to be resolved one day a year and some money being put towards a cause. It needs to be something we work towards erasing on a daily basis - in our regular lives, and be consistent with the support that we offer to those around us.
1 in 5 Canadians will be impacted by mental illness in their lifetimes and the other 4 will know someone impacted. In the news recently, there have been reports of first responders committing suicide. 34 in the last 9 months. That's a scary number. Why aren't these workers getting the support they need in their demanding roles? And why isn't this getting more attention?
On Monday I was a special guest at Singular Sensation, an open mic night here in Toronto that is hosted by my friend, Jeni Walls. Jeni asked me to sing and share my story to coincide with Bell Let's Talk. I sang 'Mama Don't Cry' and Some Days, both which resonate with me and my story so deeply. I was thankful to be able to share my mom's story and talk about why it's important that we keep the conversation going the other 364 days a year.
Other people bravely shared their stories and experiences, and as people were talking a hush fell over the room unlike what I've seen the usual crowd at Statler's to be. People were listening. They were supportive. And the stories that were shared had real impact. It was incredible to hear all of these stories, but I couldn't help but think that we need more opportunities to do this. It shouldn't have to be a special day for people to feel comfortable to talk about their mental health and the struggles they may have had. While myself and many others in the room were thankful for the platform to share their experiences, the subject of mental illness somehow remains taboo in our society.
I think Bell Let's Talk is a great initiative and have been tweeting up a storm today, but want to see more change year round.
I want us to get to a place where the taboo is gone.
For the last three years I've hosted the Life is Sweet series on my blog in February. It's an opportunity for people to share their stories of mental illness, mental health, suicide and loss. Since my mom's death in 1998 (and after I finished junior high), I became very open about discussing mental illness, depression and suicide. They aren't off limits words in my vocabulary, and I've become very passionate about sharing my mom's story in hopes that it would help other people to realize they aren't alone.
For me, the Life is Sweet series is a small way that I can contribute to erasing the stigma around mental health.
I didn't learn about my mom's depression and previous suicide attempts until the day before she died. I don't know if anything would have changed if I had known earlier, but I wish that she had lived in a society where she felt comfortable talking about her own struggles.
The Life is Sweet series is for her and anyone else who has felt silenced in sharing their stories and their struggles.
As I said last year on Bell Let's Talk Day, we need to talk and talk and never be quiet.
Let this day be a catalyst to open up the conversation, but let's work to keep it going the rest of the year.