Let’s talk and keep the conversation going

Let's Talk

Mental Health care in Canada has come a long way, but it still has a long way to go. One in five Canadians will experience some kind of battle with mental health in their lifetime. That’s a minimum of 25%. While Bell Let’s Talk day is certainly far from perfect, it can be used as a tool to help by driving conversation in the right direction.

Although I know people, like myself, who have been helped by the system, I know many more who are fighting simply for their ability to live even a relatively normal life. People who fight hard to get any kind of care but find themselves facing a wall in every direction.

The conversation has been happening now for more than five years, but now it needs to grow.

Especially when it comes to access for adults. Research and access to medication need to be provided at more viable costs. There are so many things that need to be done.

Did you know that most people treated with mental illness go through a myriad of medications before finding the right ones? The wrong meds can do more harm than good. Sometimes, medication works, but it doesn’t do enough. Sometimes it does too much. Often, it makes us sicker. It affects not just our mental state, but our physical state. And for many who do not have access to any kind of medical insurance, the cost of their medications alone can leave them in poverty. At one point, when I was completely uninsured, my medication costs were over $700 a month. Some months, they were $2000. This was just so I could lead a semblance of a normal life.

Today, take the time to educate yourself by reading, researching, and learning.

Take a look at the resources that are out there. Read the stories of the people, who like myself, fight every day against what their minds are telling them. Our illnesses are invisible, but the impact of them in our personal lives are felt just as harshly as many of the visible illnesses. Every day is a battle. A battle to remind ourselves we’re not crazy, to recognize it’s our illnesses making our worlds crumble, to will ourselves to get out of bed and face the day.

With one in five Canadians likely to face any kind of mental health struggle, even if you can’t think of anyone, it’s likely you know someone facing some kind of mental illness or mental health struggle. You may not see it, but it could be anyone. Your son or daughter, husband or wife, father or mother, brother or sister. It could be your best friend, your co-workers, your pastor, your boss, or your doctor. Maybe you know they are struggling, maybe you don’t. The thing about many of us is that we’ve learned to look and act normal, to hide any telltale signs anything else is going on under the surface.

Today, take the time to join the conversation.

Bell Let’s Talk Day, despite it’s flaws, is powerful because it gives everyone a way to get involved. A very simple, easy way to get involved. If you are part of the Bell network, every call and text you send will result in a 5 cent donation to this year’s campaign. (If you’re an iPhone user, please remember to turn off the iMessage function for it to count!).

Other ways, for everyone–whether you’re part of the Bell network or not–include the use of social media. Every time the hashtag #BellLetsTalk is used on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, or you use the Snapchat filter by Bell, the company will donate another 5 cents. There are also posts floating around on Facebook and Twitter from the official Bell Let’s Talk accounts that will see an additional 5 cents donated every single time the tweet or post is shared.

Now, I challenge you to do more.

Bell has done an incredible job of increasing the conversation. But it can’t stop there. We need to encourage them to help provide more access to care for adults and to fund research and programs helping adults as well. We need to encourage them to challenge workplaces to end discrimination for mental health struggles. And we need to keep them accountable.

Bell is doing a lot of good. But a lot of things are slipping through the cracks in their own company. On the one hand, I get it. They’re a big company, and being 100% aware of things happening at smaller branches is difficult. However, when you’re a company priding yourself on setting a new standard for practices, you need to uphold those practices. Situations like this one, where a station under Bell’s umbrella fired a radio show host for presenting a note from a doctor that she would require time due to mental health. Maria did a brave thing, and took to Canadaland to share her story–one that is, to many of us, all too familiar, and reinforces the need to challenge Bell and make them stand by the mantel they are proclaiming.

More than just keeping Bell accountable, we need to pressure our government to make a bigger priority about this. To recognize that this can happen to anyone and put methods in place that protect workers.

This year, instead of concluding with my own story, I’m going to conclude with one from someone else.

I’ve had the pleasure of knowing Keilagh for several years now. Hers was the first wedding I ever shot, and she’s been an active part of the musical and drama community locally. When I reached out to my community for stories of their own mental health struggles, she was the first to respond.

Last summer, at just 5 1/2 months old, her son Nathan broke his left femur. Something that was already terrifying for herself and her husband as parents was taken to the next level when the authorities became involved due to his injury.

“We were put through the wringer and had a full blown investigation by CAS (Children’s Aid Society),” she explained.

“They thought we were beating our kids.”

Of course, as anyone who knows Keilagh and her family could tell you, there was no chance they were beating their kids. After what was likely a harrowing experience of medical tests, they were informed Nathan had a rare form of blood cancer, which is why the bone broke.

“It was an extremely traumatizing event,” said Keilagh. “I was afraid to leave the house with my kids, I was afraid to have people in my house. It was a very hard thing to deal with.”

She added that for the past ten years, she has battled severe anxiety and depression, explaining over this time, she has always had a three step system to help her manage it. But with all the added stress of this situation, it wasn’t working, so she decided to reach out for help.

“You would thing that it would be a good thing, but I was met with the response of “you must be suicidal” from the office of my health care provider,” she shared. “I felt very labeled, I felt like nobody understood that I just needed help, and instead assumed that I was going to hurt myself or someone around me.”

“I know that suicide is a very real thing, but I hate that people don’t understand that just because you have anxiety or depression doesn’t mean that you want to end your life.”

Her story, thankfully, has a happy ending. Keilagh was paired with an amazing social worker and began to regain control of her mental health and her life. The stigma of how she was treated however, remains a criticism of her experience with the system.

“I just wish people would stop assuming they know what’s going on in someone else’s head.”

Below are some additional important reads regarding Bell Let’s Talk and Mental Health. Please, today, take the time to read through them and help change the conversation around Mental Health.

How to be a mental health ally to someone in need
How Canada fails people with mental illnesses
Let’s Talk About The Corporatization of Mental Health

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