This year marks the 12th Bell Let’s Talk Day, an annual campaign put on by Bell Canada to help break down the stigma around mental health. The social campaign has called on public figures and celebrities to lend their voices to the cause, culminating in millions of #BellLetsTalk hashtags being shared around social media and raising over $139 million that goes towards community-based mental health programs, research into mental health, workplace best practices, and public education.
Last year the campaign received criticism, with hashtags such as #belljusttalk and #alltalk started trending on social media, calling into question the impact and relevance of this campaign after so many years of waving the awareness flag.
This year’s theme – ‘Let’s create positive change’ – marks the first notable shift from talking and awareness, to action and doing something about it. This isn’t to say that reducing stigma and galvanizing community support around mental health aren’t vital and ongoing pursuits. Rather, the needs around mental health have grown to such levels that building awareness is no longer enough. More needs to be done, and this year’s theme highlights the need for change to address the growing mental health problem at large in society.
With an industry led by EAPs as all-in-one resources for employee wellbeing, including mental health, the needs have fallen well short of the demand, especially in recent years. With 1-in-2 people experiencing mental health issues not getting the care they need, coupled with EAPs averaging less than 10% utilization and not setup to handle this influx in demand, it’s clear this is a broken system that needs rethinking.
It’s time for us to re-evaluate this problem and explore different ways to solve this problem. EAPs and therapy are no longer enough.
We know that more people are experiencing mental distress in our workplaces than ever before. We also know there are still significant barriers, including stigma, that prevent people from either self-associating with needing mental health intervention or being able to reach the care they need in a timely manner. After all, there are a finite number of therapists, even as needs grow exponentially.
With growing numbers and stigma still rampant despite the annual campaign work, the way we talk and behave around mental health needs a serious adjustment. Have you ever noticed that on days like today (Bell Let’s Talk), the discussion is centered almost entirely on illness? The thriving or performance end of the mental health spectrum isn’t touched on. This problem exacerbates everything around mental health, including how we support our employees. We have been conditioned to treat it as a problem that needs changing or fixing, rather than a reality that we need to learn how to cope with in the constant navigation of our mental wellbeing.
The change needs to shift from a conversation of mental illness to one of upskilling and prevention. After all, preventing a problem from occurring is far simpler than fixing it after the fact. This holds true for our mental health.
This year marks another notable change in Bell Let’s Talk: the #BellLetsTalk hashtag no longer tallies each mention and donates 5¢ per message. Instead, Bell is donating a $10M lump sum. This doesn’t mean sharing and the virality of the campaign needs to stop! We’d encourage sharing your stories on social and joining the important conversation that was started some 12 years ago. For more on how you can contribute to this important cause, visit https://letstalk.bell.ca/