I remember scrolling through a plethora of #BellLetsTalk posts last year and feeling heartened by the sense of togetherness resonating from my phone screen. Two weeks later, a man with well-managed schizophrenia was found not criminally responsible for murder and subsequently released. Canada went into an uproar. All the hopes I had for mental health destigmatization quickly rescinded.
This is the precedent set by Bell Canada. Don’t get me wrong; those five cents per hashtag have resulted in the distribution of over $7 million to a wide variety of productive mental health initiatives. However, beside its monetary value, Bell has created a culture of “let’s talk, but only to a certain extent.”
Mental health is a multi-faceted and complex issue. Bell does not address this by plastering Clara Hughes’ bright and promising smile on all its promotional materials. I applaud her for facing her mental health head-on and sharing her story. Yet, Bell has contributed to an environment where only the upper middle class with “acceptable” conditions, such as anxiety and depression, can be heard. This is so incredibly wrong. Mental health includes bipolar disorder, postpartum depression, schizophrenia, eating disorders, and more. It includes the homeless, the immigrants, the young, and the elderly, too. Every single aspect of mental health should be discussed in an equal manner.
As a telecommunications company, Bell should understand its impact through social media yet, they have gone down the same path of promoting slacktivism and empty gestures. The number of posts with a simple #BellLetsTalk is a façade of an understanding culture. It raises money without people considering the weight of stigma around mental health. People do their good deed of the day and forget about it once the 24 hours have passed. They write paragraphs of general well-being statements and end it with a cheery, but empty, “I’m always here if anyone needs to talk!”
From now on, try a little harder to think outside of Bell’s little box. Try to understand how an immigrant, alone in a foreign land with only his thoughts, slipped through the cracks of the healthcare system. Think about how much he regrets his actions. Marvel at how medicine, therapy, and patience, could reintegrate him into society as a man who happens to have a stable mental health condition.
We need to talk about mental health, but we don’t need Bell.