We talk a lot about ending the stigma around mental illness, and today, Bell Canada wants us all to talk about it a little more. The Bell Let’s Talk campaign aims to chip away at the stigma one tweet at a time.
For every tweet using the #BellLetsTalk hashtag or Facebook share of its campaign image today, Bell donates five cents to mental health initiatives in Canada. The telecom is also donating five cents for every call or text message sent over its network. It might not sound like much, but it adds up. Over the six years the campaign has run, the program has helped generate over $73 million in private funding for mental health.
Most of that goes through the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund, which gives grants of $5,000 to $25,000 to projects that improve access to mental health care, support and services for people in Canada living with mental illness. As CBC points out, this doesn’t make up for a significant funding gap for mental health care in Canada, but it helps.
The 2012 Mental Health Care Strategy by the MHCC called on the government to improve funding of the mental health sector, which currently makes up about seven per cent of health care spending. The MHCC and the CMHA have both called for that to increase to nine per cent over 10 years, or about $4.29 billion.
However, no firm funding commitment has been made on a national level.
The stigma of mental illness hasn’t helped when it comes to raising — and retaining — money for the cause.
“Because of stigma, mental health programs are often one of the first ones to be cut when there’s a budget-tightening exercise going on,” [Heather] Stuart said. “They may also be the last to be funded, the first to be cut.”
With over 58 million interactions already today, #BellLetsTalk is doing an admirable job of getting people to speak on the subject, but the most exciting part is what they’re speaking about. Individuals are sharing their own stories, and others are sharing their support. Some are using the hashtag as a platform to raise awareness for the very real challenges involved with seeking mental health care in Canada.
And then there’s this tweet from Canada’s popular new Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau:
It’s #BellLetsTalk day! Let’s work to end the stigma around mental illness. RT this to donate 5¢ to Canadian mental health programs.
— Justin Trudeau (@JustinTrudeau) January 27, 2016
Given that he has the power to change the conversation entirely, here’s hoping this isn’t the last we hear on the subject from Prime Minister Trudeau.