Friday, February 3, 2012

Wellbeing: The continuing struggle to raise awareness for mental illness

An article published in the January 30th edition of the National Post:



By Melody Lau

In its first year, the Bell Let’s Talk campaign managed to rally more phone traffic than the 2010 Olympics moment when Sidney Crosby scored his famous game-winning goal, a previous Bell volume record. Now entering its second year, the campaign is bigger than ever.

The extensive five-year initiative aims to get people across the country talking about mental health, in order to create awareness and raise money to fund programs. This year, Bell will donate 5¢ to mental health for every text and long distance call made by a Bell customer on Feb. 8. Last year alone generated more than $3-million. Not with Bell? Then just hop on Twitter; every retweet about the campaign also contributes 5¢ to the cause.

“We’ve had incredible support from so many places, from our advertising partners but also from our competitors,” says Mary Deacon, chair of the project. “Just in terms of getting involved and supporting this initiative, we don’t know how big it can get, but all we want to do is do better than last year, and we’ve added so many new dimensions.”

Such forms of expansion include a heavier focus on local stories and experts, a more comprehensive website to help inform people about mental health and the addition of two new spokespeople. Joining national spokeswoman and Olympian Clara Hughes [pictured] will be actor-comedian Michel Mpambara and author, composer and performer Stefie Shock.

“Clara came forward herself and said this is something she wanted to be part of, which is remarkable for somebody obviously as busy as she is,” says Deacon, about Hughes’ role in the campaign. “She’s a remarkable human being and we’re excited to have two more spokespeople this year.”

“We wanted to ensure that the messages that we’re sending were going to resonate with our various audiences,” Deacon adds. “What we want to do is help bring a voice to mental health that it maybe hasn’t had before.”

At least one in five Canadians will suffer from mental illness in their lifetimes and Bell hopes this initiative will shine a light on the underfunded and highly stigmatized subject.

“We really felt that it was an area where we could make a difference,” says Deacon about the impetus behind Bell’s decision to back this cause.

Deacon has spent the past 25 years in the business of not-for-profits and 10 years specifically focusing on mental health issues. She is proud of Bell’s efforts, adding that, “it was really refreshing, for me, to see a company apply the same kind of talents and strengths to something that was charitable.

“At the end of the day what this means is more money for mental health programs all across the country which we really want to help.”

For more information on the initiative, visit letstalk.bell.ca
Photo credit


Statistics provided by Bell Canada:
  • At least 1 in 5 Canadians experiences a form of mental illness at some point in their lives – every one of us has a family member, friend or colleague who will experience mental illness
  • Mental health funding is modest relative to other health care issues – mental illness represents 15% of Canada’s health care burden but receives only 5% of health care funding
  • Just one-third of Canadians who need mental health services actually receive them
  • Mental illness is the number one cause of workplace disability in Canada – accounting for 30% of disability claims and 70% of disability costs
  • Mental illness costs the Canadian economy $51 billion each year in lost productivity – every day, 500,000 Canadians are absent from work due to a form of mental illness.

Also see:

Bell Media Fuels the Conversation About Mental Health in Support of Bell Let's Talk Day, Feb. 8

Stefie Shock and Michel Mpambara join Clara Hughes for second annual Bell Let's Talk Day on February 8, 2012.

No comments: