Ending the Stigma of Mental Health
In 2010, Bell started a new initiative called Bell Let’s Talk Day. At the time, not many people were talking about mental illness. But Bell Let's Talk Day has facilitated conversations that we weren't having before. To date, Bell has been able to donate $86,504,429.05 to mental health related charities. In equal importance to the money raised, according to Bell 4 out of 5 Canadians reported that they are more aware of mental illness since the initiative began! That is an amazing statistic and such an incredible change.
This year, Bell has added even more ways for you to get donations from them. In addition to every text getting a 5¢ donation, every tweet using #BellLetsTalk, Facebook photo frame, and Snapchat geo-filter will also receive a donation. Bell is also posting videos on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram that will receive the same donation per view. So take the time tomorrow and use social media more than you do on a normal day. And, if you’re a Bell iPhone customer, turn off iMessage. Please take advantage of all sources of potential donations. Each simple step helps raise awareness and money for mental health initiatives. I can’t think of anything else that is so easy yet very effective.
This is important to me because when I was in elementary and high school, no one really talked about mental illness. And when they did talk about it, the people who were struggling would feel attacked by the school system and alienated. I personally never found the school system to be any help at all. I strongly disliked my school’s social worker to the point where I refused to talk to her when she asked to. They never helped. They would make me leave school to go get checked out at the hospital, not realizing that taking me out of school took away my purpose for getting up every morning.
But as I got older, I felt that there was more awareness and understanding of mental illness. Although I never took advantage of it, I knew that I could get academic accommodations for my mental health, if need be. It was nice to know that an institution, like Western University, put as much weight on the importance of good mental health as they did for physical health.
And that improved even more. At the end of December, I had to take a mental health day from my graduate program. My brain was on overload, I was overwhelmed with a million little things, and didn’t want to risk these feelings exploding on an undeserving third party. So, with the support and encouragement of my program coordinator, I took a mental health day. It was the best thing I could have done to recharge. And the support from my teacher’s made it an easy decision: a choice that I may have not made so easily before.
When I was in my darkest place, I never really understood the impact that my mental illness had on the people around. I didn’t think it would affect them but I was blind in my own pain to notice that my friends were hurting with me, too. I honestly didn’t understand the full impact of my lack of will to live until my best friend asked me to edit her personal essay for her English class. When I read it, my heart broke. It breaks again now as I reread the essay today. But it is important to know how you can change people’s lives without realizing. With her permission, I have decided to share the piece my friend wrote about me.
Due to some of the details she shared, I’m going to leave a trigger warning:
Please do not read any further if you are currently feeling suicidal or are at risk for these feelings.
If you are in a crisis, call the Mental Health Helpline at 1-866-531-2600
ne thing I've learned is that you should never look back. The past is dead and buried. You get nothing from living there. I sometimes get flashbacks to moments of the past that I can remember all too well. I flash back to the house, the door, the pills, a letter, and my friend.
A memory is a person’s ability to remember something. Memories can be good and bad. We often forget that the past is dead and buried, so you achieve nothing by dwelling in it. Our subconscious controls our memory and sometimes allows us to remember events that we wish we could forget. They haunt us. Frequently, my mind flashes back to July 2012. Back to that house, the door, the pills, the letter, and my friend barely conscious on the floor.
I am haunted by the memory of one of the worst days of my life. The day my friend believed full heartedly that there was nothing left for her here. The day she attempted to take her own life.
I was about to go paint shopping with my mom for an art project, when I got a text from my friend that said, “I’m sorry.”
Alarms went off in my head. Something wasn’t right. I asked her what she was apologizing for. As I waited for her reply, my mom was waiting for me in the car. I couldn’t leave until I knew what was wrong. She replied by telling me how she had taken eighty pills. Immediately, I ran out of the house and hopped into the car. I needed to tell my mom; I couldn’t lose my friend.
My words flooded out like a collapsing dam. By the time we were almost there I had told her everything. My voice was weak and trembling. Although my mom was racing down the street like a bullet, it felt like it took an eternity.
When I got to her house, I ran to the door and tried the handle, hoping for the best but knowing that the probability of it being locked. I wasn’t worried about this factor because I would have busted that door down in a heartbeat. Thankfully, the door swung open. She hadn’t locked it.
I ran inside and didn’t stop until I reached the kitchen where I saw her, lying on the floor. Beside her was a letter that contained what she believed would be her last words. Spilled over the letter were fifteen little red pills. Only fifteen were left from the bottle that contained one hundred fifty pills only half an hour ago. I scooped up the pills and the letter, and put the pills out of the way. The paper is light in weight but the words weighed more than an elephant. The biggest scars left on people are from words. I began to read the letter, but the first sentence speared me in the heart. I never read past that first sentence. Which was for my own good since when my mom read it she cried.
The next thing I did after I tried to read the letter was kneel down beside her and take hold of her hand. I ran my hand over hers and kept telling her she was going to be okay. For both of our sakes, I was hoping I was right.
Time seemed to freeze while we waited for the first responders to arrive. The police were the first to arrive on the scene, with a response time of three minutes. The ambulance arrived shortly after. As she was being put into the back of the ambulance, several of her neighbours came out to see what all the ruckus was about. Shortly after, she was transported to the hospital. I wasn’t too far behind the ambulance, following in a car. This memory is one of the skeletons in my closet.
I have tried suppressing this memory for quite a while. It has consumed me and I feel trapped by it at times. One of the things that I have learnt is that you have to face the memories that consume us. Dealing with a bad memory, instead of repressing, allows you to break free from the cage that they keep you in. Memories are like a ghost from the past: they haunt me.
have kept two versions of this essay since I first read it in 2014 to remind myself that people love me. That people care. And that my death would start a domino affect of hurting the people I love—a scar that I would have left on them for eternity.
In the moment, I was extremely angry with my friend. I didn’t get why she wouldn’t just let me go, even as I on the ground begging her to just let me die. I can’t thank her enough for ignoring what I wanted and giving me what I needed: a chance at a fresh start of life and an awareness of the impacts of mental illness.
This is why Bell Let’s Talk Day is important to me. I hope (and beg) that you take time tomorrow to support this cause. It doesn’t take long.