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Jan. 25 is Bell Let’s Talk Day

Bell Let’s Talk is a social media initiative to raise awareness on mental health. Every time someone uses #bellletstalk, 5 cents is donated towards mental health initiatives across Canada. Since 2010, it’s raised $79,919,178.55 through the campaign. (Photo by Dawn Gibson/SAIT)

Bell Let’s Talk is a social media initiative to raise awareness on mental health. Every time someone uses #bellletstalk, 5 cents is donated towards mental health initiatives across Canada. Since 2010, it’s raised $79,919,178.55 through the campaign. (Photo by Dawn Gibson/SAIT)

Canadians will be taking part in a conversation about mental health for Bell Let’s Talk Day on Jan. 25.

The annual event is part of an initiative by Bell to raise awareness on mental health issues and to reduce the associated stigma that is tied to it.

Every time someone sends a text message or makes a call through Bell on Jan. 25, a donation of five cents will be made towards mental health initiatives.

As well, every tweet or Instagram post using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk will garner an additional five cents for the campaign.

Last year’s campaign brought in over $6 million through over 150 million interactions, and #BellLetsTalk was the most used hashtag in Canada that day.

“As a result of Canadians and people around the world, Bell has invested over $80 million,” said Mary Deacon, the chair of the Bell Let’s Talk mental health initiative.

Deacon has been working with Bell since the campaign started in 2010, and was instrumental in steering Bell towards supporting mental health.

“There was a real vacuum in corporate Canada for leadership in this area,” said Deacon. “Mental health truly is an issue whose time has come.”

Bell Let’s Talk Day is only one part of the much larger initiative Bell has set up. Their work is based upon four main pillars: improving access to care, supporting research, workplace health and fighting stigma. 

“Research shows that the reason the majority of people with mental health issues don’t seek help is because of fear of stigma and discrimination,” said Deacon.

“Tackling stigma is essential in order to break down that barrier, not only to make people feel less alone, but make it easier for them to seek help.”

Clara Hughes, a Canadian cyclist and speed skater who won four Olympic medals in both the summer and winter games, is one of the campaign’s national spokespeople.

Hughes, who speaks openly of her experiences with depression, is one of several celebrities who created video testimonials about mental health in an effort to desensitize the issue

“I think education is the most crucial component to breaking down the stigma attached to mental illness,” Hughes said in one of the testimonials. “When you can understand what you are seeing somebody go through, you can maybe have more patience with them, as you see the struggle.”

Education is also a large part of Bell’s campaign. They have addressed this by partnering with the University of Alberta to create an online hub of mental health information for students.

“Students and young people are our greatest hope for change,” said Deacon. 

Bell is looking to partner with more schools around the country to further the cause and to get the younger generation more involved.

“There should be really great programs and supports and services for students on campuses,” said Deacon. “I don’t know what there is at SAIT, but I think it’s a really great question to ask.

“There would be nothing to stop SAIT, if there was a will to do something really big and special for mental health.”

Both Deacon and Hughes stressed the importance of using listening as a tool to help support those with mental health issues.

“We spend so much time talking and telling and directing, we forget to listen,” said Hughes. “When you can close your mouth and open your ears and your heart, and listen to a person, it is often the first step that allows them to know that they are not alone, that they are loved, they are valued, and that there is hope.”

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