Today was Bell Let’s Talk Day in Canada. For those of you who don’t know, it is a day that is utilized to open up the conversation surrounding mental health and trying to break down the stigma associated with that. And I love it. Now, I know there are a lot of individuals who have lots to say in regards to Bell Let’s Talk and the capitalist nature of a business created a way to advertise their information while fundraising at the same time. However, I don’t want to get into all that. Rather, I would like to focus on what Bell Let’s Talk does.
It gives people a space, even if just for one day, to be honest about how they are really doing and that it is okay if they are not doing okay. It gives families a chance to talk about how hard their loved one is struggling and discuss the ways in which they still need to be supported too. It allows the individuals who feel isolated or alone or “different” to realize that they are not the only ones. That in Canada, it is 1 in 5 people will struggle with their mental health at some point in their lives, and I can almost guarantee there are more than that as we move our way into the second year of a world wide pandemic. Making mental wellness, and asking for help, the norm is exactly what this world today, and all the other days too.
And that is the only downfall of Bell Let’s Talk. It is one day. We need to do better than that.
We need to make that when a client came up to us today and said he does not know why he feels the need to cry all the time did not have to feel ashamed. He did not have to justify or explain or even question why he was feeling emotional, but instead was able to just feel those emotions without worrying about what anyone had to say.
We need to make it normal to talk about having low moods and feeling overwhelmed with the expectations placed on us. We need to remember that we are all humans and that we are not machines and there are going to be moments when there is too much going on and we feel like we can’t handle it all.
We need to make it normal for work places to accept “taking a mental health day” as a valid reason for not coming into work. We need them to acknowledge that this is okay without questioning or talking negatively about that coworker. We need to ensure we are checking in on that co-worker if they are not doing well in the same way we would a staff member who had the flu, or surgery or cancer.
We need to make it normal for people on medications to not be considered “crazy” or being told “did you take your meds today” when feeling any kind of emotion. We need to remember that medication works for some people and doesn’t for others and that as long as someone is working on feeling better for themselves, we have no right to judge.
We need to make accessing counselling a normal part of a health routine. It should be just as normal as going to the doctor or getting your flu shot. We should be able to talk about it without being judged and that the comment of “I have a counselling appointment” is part of the regular vocabulary instead of hiding it behind medical, or undisclosed appointments. People go to and need counselling for a variety of reasons and should not be judged accordingly.
We need to stop assuming that if someone has a significant mental health disorder like Schizophrenia or Bi-polar that does not mean they don’t deserve respect or dignity. They deserve the same opportunities as we do and should not be treated with fear for struggling. This should include anyone who experiences delusions or psychosis. This does not always translate to dangerous.
And finally, and most importantly of all, we just straight up need to be nicer. We need to give people the space, all year round, to acknowledge where they are struggling and offer opportunities for support. We need to know what we know, know what we don’t and offer help in a way that is actually helpful, not judgmental or condescending. Understand that all of us at some point in our life is going to struggle and by making it part of the normal conversation, it won’t matter. It won’t be judged. It won’t be shamed. It will be an opportunity for growth, support and building stronger connections.
Wouldn’t that be a much better world?