Why Bell Let’s Talk has the power to bind us together

While a familiar campaign, it’s important to remember the magnitude of its impact

Austin Wild draws on his personal experiences with mental health to think about what Bell Let’s Talk means to him
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I know it’s a cold time out there for many of you, but for many others, it’s a time where the pressures of life can be overwhelming, to say the least. I say this because I know that, today, many students are willing to speak openly about their internal and external struggles in an era of shifting stigmas—myself included.
 
It’s undeniable that the effects of mental health awareness campaigns, such as Bell Let’s Talk, have made a positive impact on Canadians and their perspectives on mental health. 
 
In a survey conducted this year, 84 per cent of Canadians said they were comfortable talking about their mental health, compared to only about 42 per cent in 2012. This is a massive shift in perspective in a relatively short amount of time. This is, in large part, due to Bell Let’s Talk.
 
I’m sure many of you are aware of what the campaign is at some level, but I want to bring attention to the incredible initiative and the breadth of its impact on mental health services.
 
Bell Let’s Talk (or in French, Bell Cause pour La Cause) is the largest corporate mental health initiative in Canada, with more than $100 million in donations committed by Bell to supporting mental health services since 2010. These donations are built up from $0.05 being donated on Bell Let’s Talk day for every call and text made by those on a Bell phone plan, and for every Snapchat filter, Instagram or YouTube view, Facebook photo frame, and Twitter hashtag used, regardless of which device or plan it’s made with. 
 
Through this, Bell has developed 657 community fund grants, with 1.45 million trained staff and volunteers overall reaching an estimated 3,409,680 Canadians between 2010 and 2020—nearly one-tenth of the Canadian population. 
 
Essentially, Bell has developed a system where anybody and everybody can make a difference just by going about their day. Whether it’s calling your family, sending a message on Instagram, or watching a YouTube video, you’re making a difference toward “awareness, acceptance and action” on Bell Let’s Talk day. 
 
While it’s clear how Bell structures the donations, their wide impact is made through the company’s allocation of donations. This year, Bell’s biggest partners are the Canadian Mental Health Association, the Canadian Red Cross, Foundry, Jack.org, Kids Help Phone, Revive, St. John’s Ambulance, and the Strongest Families Institute. 
 
These are all reputable platforms in their own right, but Bell takes on added accountability by remaining completely transparent about how much money will go to which place and why. 
 
For example, the Strongest Families Institute this year will receive $500,000 from Bell Let’s Talk, Northwestel, and the Government of the Northwest Territories with the aims of providing mental health services throughout the 
Northwest Territories. 
 
One of the core goals of Bell Let’s Talk is to ensure that all Canadians, no matter where they are in Canada or what economic background they’re from, will have access to the tools to better their mental health. 
 
Bell Let’s Talk, at its heart, is an event that brings people together. Strangers become friends, family bonds become stronger, and Canadians become better Canadians. 
 
Bell Let’s Talk is doing something that not many people understand is hard to do. Mental health isn’t like resetting a broken limb or fighting a degenerating disease. It’s uniquely difficult to deal with, because there will never be one single catch-all cure for mental illness. 
 
Mental wellness is a constant and ongoing process that will continue to affect someone for their entire lives. It’s a long, difficult, and frustratingly challenging road that will always need to be faced in one’s lifetime at some level. For many of us, it’s an exhausting experience. 
 
The most terrifying thing that I've ever had to deal with while coping with my own mental health is being afraid that my issues would be belittled, made light of, and ultimately ignored by those I love. 
 
In my own experience with Asperger’s Syndrome and performing in high-level sports, I felt pressured to disregard my mental wellbeing in favour of achieving high results. This stunted my own road to mental maturity by making me feel like my own issues were irrelevant in comparison with achieving higher goals.
 
This was a process that moulded me into the man that I am today, but it was a one-sided process that had its flaws and caused me challenges.
 
Bell Let’s Talk will be taking place on January 29 this year. As it approaches, I implore you to spread awareness by using a tool I know you all already love: social media. 
 
Watch as many YouTube videos, take as many Snapchat pictures, and slide into as many DMs as you can on Bell Let’s Talk day to help make a difference in favour of positive change for mental health.
 
And please know the following: although the future’s challenges may be terrifying and daunting, you never have to walk that road on your own. People are here to help walk you down that road, because Queen’s isn’t just a place where we earn our degrees: it’s a community and home. 
 
A quote from Gladys Hunt’s book Child’s Heart sums up what I mean about Queen’s being home, and how Bell Let’s Talk represents the best of what our community has to offer to one another.
 
“What is home? My favorite definition is ‘a safe place,’ a place where one is free from attack, a place where one experiences secure relationships and affirmation. It's a place where people share and understand each other. Its relationships are nurturing. The people in it do not need to be perfect; instead, they need to be honest, loving, supportive, recognizing a common humanity that makes all of us vulnerable.”
 
This is what Queen’s means to me, and I hope that by participating in Bell Let’s Talk, we can all transform it into a place where all students feel the same way—even as they experience issues which have historically been neglected and stigmatized.  
 
Austin Wild is a fifth-year history student. 

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