#BellLetsTalk and why maybe you shouldn’t

I tweeted early this morning that I am not blind to how problematic this topic is. I stand by that. I am no lover of Bell nor am I blind to the opportunistic #BellLetsTalk campaign. It’s amazing PR for a much maligned (and deservedly so) company.

As someone who was diagnosed with depression at 20 and who had actually been depressed since about 15 (20 years of struggling this year)…I do not give two hoots about *why* Bell wants to champion mental illness awareness. Bell will make millions with or without this campaign. They will make the donation with or without participation. Sure they could quietly make a donation to CAMH and other organizations but that is not the point of this campaign.

When you strip away all the Bell branding and PR spiel, you know what’s left? People discussing mental illness in a way that wasn’t happening when I was 15 or 20 or 25 or even 30.

I am in awe of some of my friends and people I follow and strangers who share throughout this day. Check my twitter feed if you don’t know what I’m talking about. @SeptembreA & @neville_park stand out to me but there are many, many more, too many to list.

I see people in my twitter feed sharing their experiences or the experiences of their friends and families with mental illness.  Asking tough questions about access to therapy, drugs, support…I see people baring their deepest, darkest parts to their friends and strangers. Why? Because speaking, being heard, finding a community in illnesses that often leave us alone, isolated and even dead is powerful. And it can be empowering.

I wonder about my 15 year old self and if I had seen people talking about those feelings of self-harm, despair, isolation…if I might have sought help sooner. If I wouldn’t have fallen so low that I was in a bathtub with a knife to my wrists before I begged to be stopped.

So with all those thoughts in my mind…when I see people who may or may not have had their own experiences with mental illness filling up the #BellLetsTalk tag with Bell bashing, and nonsensical joke tweets…I feel angry. I feel hurt I feel like this confirms why we need to support this initiative year after year.

There may be someone you know who is reading through that tag right now; who’s hurting; who is hanging on by a thread and they need to see that tag. They need to see that there is hope or support or something that gets them through one more minute, one more hour, one more day.

I am not going to pat Bell on the back for doing something all corporations can and should do. But ask yourself how many companies support their employees with mental illnesses? Many don’t have policies that allow employees sick days for their mental health; or access to benefits for drugs and therapy. It’s easy for companies to get behind charities that support abused women, Movember, etc…but people are still afraid of the mentally ill. People are still afraid to say, I have depression, schizophrenia, anxiety, etc…and yet so many are suffering. If you aren’t – you’re lucky and count your blessings and knock on wood you never know what it’s like. But if you don’t suffer…statistically, someone you know is. So making that joke or dwelling on the evilness of Bell…well it can be insensitive.

You don’t have to agree with me and I certainly don’t have to agree with you but why would you let your skepticism and anti-Bell sentiment derail (and yes, if you aren’t contributing to the spirit of #BellLetsTalk day I think you are derailing) the important discussion that is happening for people who need it?