I support any initiative that gets people talking about mental health, however, I have to share some of the issues I have with Bell Let’s Talk Day:
1) I have yet to see a poster, billboard or advertisement with a person who is Indigenous, Asian, Black or Latino. Bell Let’s Talk is a very white campaign.
2) The people in the ads I’ve seen are all post-recovery which is not indicative of everyone with mental health issues. An initiative to start a dialogue about mental health should have a better representation of people with mental health issues at different stages. The current campaign comes across as a sterilized version of mental health.
3) This campaign does not talk about what mental health issues are. When CAN delivers disability awareness seminars, we ask people to list three types of mental health issues and usually about 70% of the room can name one (97% of the time they list depression), 25% can name two and 5% can name three. Instead of focusing solely on the texting fundraiser, it would be good to see Bell use their air time to teach about what some of the mental health issues are.
4) The ads say “Let’s Talk” but don’t offer guidance on how to talk. Dialogue works best when people have a starting point. The commercials and posters I have seen have celebrities texting each other reminding them of Let’s Talk Day but do not include actual information about how to begin a conversation about mental health.
5) We need a Let’s Act Day to follow the Let’s Talk Day because talking is a start but it will only get us so far. Social media is great for raising awareness but mental health needs systemic changes that won’t come from tweets and Facebook posts. Bell has a platform they could use much more effectively. Bell does not use their campaign to bring light to the many community organizations that are working year-round for people with mental health issues. Bell also doesn’t explain in their ads where the money goes that Bell raises every year.
6) While celebrities are good for gaining attention and I understand their involvement, it would be beneficial to see a broader representation of people with mental health issues, including those who are not celebrities. I in no way mean to downplay celebrities who have mental health issues, but their experience is different to someone who does not have the funds to readily access mental health care. Many people with mental health cannot afford care or do not live in areas where care is readily available. Others with mental health issues live in poverty and must go on long wait lists for government funded care or assistance. Again, we need better representation in this campaign of people living with mental health issues, including different economic levels.
7) This campaign does not talk about how Bell actually helps their own employees or what they have done as a business to ensure their employees feel safe and secure in their workplace. This is a platform with which Bell could encourage other businesses to incorporate mental health policies.
8) Bell continues to refuse to offer lower rates for people with disabilities/mental health issues for internet or phone. In BC, our government continually pushes towards phone and online communication and many people with mental health issues cannot afford either. This is a serious barrier to people getting the help and financial support that they need.
9) Politicians feel good about tweeting in support of Bell Let’s Talk Day but don’t do enough the rest of the year to ensure that people with mental health issues get the help they need. Mental health is an ongoing issue and one day is not enough to focus on all the needs of those with mental health issues. This is not Bell’s fault, but it is indicative of how people can feel good for doing something that takes a few seconds, like tweeting, and then ignore the issue for the rest of the year.
I applaud Bell for doing anything at all, even though they are obviously benefiting by this marketing campaign by the free advertising, goodwill from customers and tax breaks from the money they donate. Their campaign has moved the conversation forward for some and they have made some strides in lessening the stigma, but I do feel they are not using their platform as well as they could. We need better representation in their ads, we need action not just talk, and we need more education and not just slogans and hashtags.