Let’s talk Bell

Students take part in #BellLetsTalk campaign

Bell launched its Let’s Talk Twitter campaign on Tuesday.
Bell launched its Let’s Talk Twitter campaign on Tuesday.
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Bell Canada launched its “Let’s Talk” campaign on Tuesday, raising awareness and funds for mental health initiatives.

Queen’s students took to Twitter to show support for the campaign. In its fourth year, Bell pledged five cents to mental health initiatives for every tweet made featuring the hashtag. Donations were also made for Facebook shares, calls and texts.

Bell said that 109,451,719 tweets, texts, calls and Facebook shares were made on Tuesday, with almost $5.5 million raised. Queen’s students and faculty took to Twitter to show support for the campaign. Principal Daniel Woolf tweeted “It’s #BellLetsTalk Day. Please retweet to support mental health and combat stigma.

Jon Wiseman, ArtSci ’16, tweeted “Suicide accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds and 16% among 25-44 year olds. That needs to change (Canadian Mental Health Association) #BellLetsTalk”.

In February 2012, Bell announced that Queen’s Faculty of Health Sciences professor Heather Stuart would fill the newly created role of Anti-Stigma Research Chair.

Bell committed to giving Stuart $1 million for five years to pursue anti-stigma research, with funding coming from previous Let’s Talk campaigns.

Stuart said that anti-stigma programs are a pillar of the campaign, and her work fits well with the company’s mandate.

“[Bell] gave Queen’s some money to protect some of my time so I could do more research and consult with [Bell] from time to time and do a public lecture every year,” she said.

In her role as Research Chair, Stuart works with Canada’s Mental Health Commission to identify programs across Canada that are doing anti-stigma programming.

“We try to set up an evaluation strategy so we can systematically access whether our programs are actually reducing stigma,” Stuart said.

“Then we identify which programs are doing the best … and make them available to other parts of the country.”

Stuart said she saw many Queen’s students participate in “Let’s Talk”, and that it gave them the opportunity to get involved with mental health awareness.

The key to reducing stigma is to encourage those who have dealt with mental illness to reach out to others who are suffering, she added.

“They can relate to people who are having problems, and help normalize the situation and give recovery messages so that people … don’t feel like it’s a death sentence,” Stuart said. “They’ll see people around them who have recovered.” Sebastian Gorlewski, director of the Peer Support Centre, said that although Bell is a corporation, their motive to promote mental health awareness is genuine.

“Sure, it’s corporate, but that’s not the point of doing it, they don’t have a hidden agenda,” Gorlewski, ArtSci ’14, said. “They are wanting to advertise that their company supports mental health issues, and the de-stigmatization of mental illness.” He said that as an influential company, Bell’s support makes an impact.

“If a big telecommunications company is saying that they support the de-stigmatization of mental health issues, that goes a long way,” he said.

Improvements still need to be made at Queen's, despite recent efforts to reduce stigma on campus, such as Queen’s Talks launched by the Peer Support Centre, a week-long campaign involving different events with guest speakers.

Gorlewski said that there should be focus on specific student groups, like athletic clubs, so that more specific experiences can be examined.

“We’re not at a point where stigma has been eliminated. I think one of the biggest drives moving forward is trying to get the message across to more diverse student groups,” he said.

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