Writer: Teresa Madaleno
So today (January 31st), is Bell Let’s Talk Day in Canada. It’s a one-day national campaign to help promote conversation around the stigma of mental illness and to encourage understanding of emotional health.
I applaud the four pillars that Bell Let’s Talk are built around: fighting the stigma, improving access to care, supporting research, and leading by example in workplace mental health.
People across the country are starting to take to their phones and social media accounts in bigger numbers each year to talk about mental health. The idea is that for every tweet, text etc., Bell donates five cents to mental health. Since the campaign began about 8 years ago over 85 million dollars has been raised.
While this type of movement is way overdue, we really need more than one day a year to bring attention to what I would call an epidemic.
I am grateful for the Bell Let’s Talk initiative and those who support it, but as someone who has witnessed people suffering from anxiety and depression, I can tell you that more – much more is needed. Since I am an Ontario resident I will refer to the condition of mental health care in this province, although it isn’t much different in other provinces.
Ontario & Mental Health
Research suggests that the burden associated with mental illness is 1.5 times that of all cancers combined and we all hear about the heavy toll cancer takes on our healthcare system. Ontario has a 54 billion dollar health budget, but did you know that the province only devotes about 3.5 billion to mental health and addiction? Doctors are always saying that our “mental health is just as important as our physical health” so why is that not reflected in budgets?
If you or someone you know has a mental health issue, don’t expect quick medical attention. Right now, mental health advocates tell me that the average wait time to see a counselor in Ontario is about five to six months. About one in four Canadians has serious enough depression to require treatment.
Bell Let’s Talk is having an impact beyond the annual campaign day. For instance, last year, Choices for Youth, in St. John’s Newfoundland received a grant from the Bell Lets Talk Community Fund. Staff from CFY have said that without the funding, the demand for a safe place to talk about mental health would not be possible. There are many other examples of how Bell Let’s Talk has helped community groups focused on mental health, but I would like to see people talking about mental health issues, the way they talk about any other health problem – openly and often.
The Canadian Mental Health Association states that “mental and physical health are fundamentally linked.” The World Health Organization contends, “There is no health without mental health”. I think it is clear that we all need to highlight the need for better mental health care on a daily basis, not just on Bell Let’s Talk Day.