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#BellLetstalk Day creates mental health awareness

National initiative encourages dialogue and raises funds for mental health

Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day and Canadians are tweeting, text messaging, calling, using Instagram, Facebook posting and Snapchatting their stories to raise mental health awareness and end stigma.

For each post —using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk on social media — Bell is donating five cents to community mental health initiatives. Since the program began in 2011, over $86.5 million has been donated to mental health initiatives and over 740,000 individuals have been given access to mental health care.

Every view of this video will also raise five cents for mental health initiatives:

Since the program began, four out of every five Canadians have reported they are more aware of mental health issues.

Despite the success, stigma still remains according to Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) Executive Director Christine Stewart.

“I think there is a lot of stigma around mental health and the idea there is something wrong with you if you aren’t feeling okay. I don’t know why that is,” she said. “Why do people feel judged if they need to ask for help?”

Stewart said there is much to be gained by sharing how you are feeling.

“When you let it store up and fester, it can magnify and get worse,” she said.

Stewart explained that changing the dialogue on social media is important, as social media can also contribute negatively to people’s mental health.

“There is an expectation of a perfect life,” she said. “Everyone, especially kids, look on social media and they see these beautiful pictures and all these fun times and they assume people are having fun like that all the time.

“Today is important because it reminds everyone to ask the questions and to not be afraid to reach out.”

By reaching out, Stewart said people may be able to get by the difficult times more easily.

“Everybody sometimes isn’t okay. If you don’t handle those times and get help when you need it, sometimes you can’t move past it,” she said.

She added she does believes initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk have helped to reduce stigma.

“We have been doing a lot of work on this month with Speak Up for Mental Health,” she said. “With that, I can’t believe how many people have come forward and shared their experiences with depression and suicidal thoughts.

“I think people 10 years ago didn’t talk like that. You were just expected to deal.”

Stewart said it is important to keep the dialogue going after Bell Let’s Talk Day.

“That is what is important. People need to feel cared about. We need to ask, ‘How are you doing since your mom died?’ or, ‘How are you doing six months post divorce?’. Sometimes it takes a long time for things to process,” she said.

Stewart said if someone is seeking help, a good place to start is through a family doctor or walk-in clinic. There are also several paid counselling services available.

“I know Vantage Community Services has free drop-in counselling,” she said. “If people call Canadian Mental Health Association, we have support groups and courses that can walk people through when they start feeling down. They can identify those first symptoms of not feeling well so they can help bring themselves back up again.”

She added, “We appreciate all the awareness that happens today and we remind people to continue it all year. Check on the people around you and make sure they are doing alright.”

Here is a link to the CMHA’s comprehensive list of mental health resources available to Central Albertans.

todd.vaughan@reddeerexpress.com

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