Bell, let’s keep talking

MARY PERINO

THE BROCK PRESS/Brittany Brooks

THE BROCK PRESS/Brittany Brooks

Bell Let’s Talk is Bell Mobility’s mental health initiative that has successfully come back for its fifth year. Bell donated five cents towards mental wellness charities for every tweet that included the hashtag #Bellletstalk and for those on Bell-provided cell phone plans, for every text and call.

The Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund is part of the mental health initiative. According to their website, through the Community Fund, Bell will provide grants in the range of $5,000 to $50,000 to organizations in Canada that are “focused on improving access to programs and services that support and help improve the mental health and well-being of people living with mental health issues”.

Spokespersons include several Canadian celebrities who have partnered for a mental health based movement, such as six-time Olympic gold medalist Clara Hughes, and comedian and TV personality Howie Mandel.

From 12:00 midnight on January 28 the texts, calls and tweets came pouring in and by 11:59 p.m. that day, 122,150,772 million mentions of #Bellletstalk were sent across Canada. As a result, Bell will donate $6,107,538.60 to “mental health initiatives around Canada” as displayed on their Facebook page.

The hashtag is still active and archived, the beauty of the internet being the access to so many inspirational quotes, mental health facts, personal anecdotes, encouraging messages and real life testimonies.

So what kind of critical stance can we take on this day? Should we be proud that we have brought the conversation of mental health to our not-so-nuclear family dinner tables? Should we be mad that we’re so dependant on technology that it takes a hashtag to get a point across? Since the movement is based on cell phones and social media, are we excluding and marginalizing those individuals who cannot afford or do not have access to these platforms? Where does this money actually come from, and more importantly, where or to whom does it go to?

What about the tweet-ers and text-ers? Phrases like, “just because you re-tweet it, doesn’t meant you understand it”, or the more classic, “jumping on a bandwagon” (or “tweeting on the bandwidth” ™ – Mary Perino) certainly must hold some truth. How can we responsibly and critically look at those who took part in this mass-media event?

It’s often as polarizing as something like Valentine’s Day. There are those who love it, and those who loathe it, but ultimately, there needs to be an established middle ground that respectably understands its importance, as well as its dangers.

When we share things, we acknowledge something’s value and want others to experience it too. That’s exactly what this movement is about: empathy, sharing and support.

This is where the problem comes in: why does the conversation end when the day does? Have you thought about that 13 character count hashtag since last Wednesday or did you immediately revert back to your previous repertoire of hashtags such as #sorrynotsorry and #allthesingleladies? Did you ever scroll far back enough through your Instagram feed to re-watch your ALS ice bucket challenge or follow through with a donation to ALS?

The problem with Bell Let’s Talk lies not in the intention, subject or marketing of the movement, but rather with those who choose not to acknowledge its potential or the lack of sustainability. Why do mental health initiatives get reduced to one day? Why romanticize or become obsessed with mental illness like we do Cupid, Santa or the Superbowl — for a period of a day?

One step that isn’t as easy as hitting retweet is this: be kind, for everyone you meet is facing a battle you know nothing about. We weren’t meant to live this life alone and that’s why we’re all here: for each other. We cannot sit back after participating in something like this; it is our responsibility to take responsibility. It’s not supposed to be easy; if it were, there would be an app for it. We need to keep this conversation of support going, for those who need to hear it, for those who need to say it, and for those who so sadly can no longer speak for themselves.

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