Allison Burney

"To live will be an awfully big adventure." - Peter Pan

Powerful Reflections on “Bell Let’s Talk” Day

Wednesday, January 25th was Bell Let’s Talk Day.

I’d heard about it in past years, but had forgotten about it by the time this year’s annual day rolled around.

As I scrolled through my Facebook newsfeed, I saw more and more photos framed in blue with the words “Bell Let’s Talk” across the bottom, and more and more videos tagged with the #BellLet’sTalk slogan.

Okay. What was this all about?

helping someone up

Photo Credit: adam_moralee Flickr via Compfight cc

I finally clicked on one of the videos and heard Howie Mandel talk about his experience with mental illness, and the struggles that continue to be a daily battle for him.

Right, I remembered, finally connecting the dots.

Mental Health Awareness

Bell Let’s Talk Day was created to support mental health initiatives by encouraging an open dialogue and increasing awareness of mental illness.

Suddenly, all the blue-framed profile pictures began to make a lot more sense to me.

But it wasn’t just the slogans or the blue frames that I stumbled across that day; it was also dozens and dozens of testimonials from the people in my life who have struggled with mental illness in the past, or are currently fighting their own battles with it.

These brave, open, honest declarations touched me deeply.

So raw, so vulnerable, and so beautiful. I felt a lot of admiration for these people who were willing to share a part of themselves that they’ve probably been keeping inside for quite some time, locked away in a dark corner of their soul.

Bringing It Home

There was one personal tribute that stood out to me more than the others, though.

It was my sister’s:

When people first learn that I’ve been dealing with depression since I was a teenager, I’m often met with shock: “But you’re always smiling!” “You always seem so happy.” “I never would have guessed.”

Yes, a lot of the time I genuinely am happy, but that’s come with years of dealing with the lows and learning when I just need some time to myself and when I need help; when just talking about how I’m feeling with a loved one is enough, and when I need to talk with someone else.

The most important thing I’ve learned over the years is that talking helps and there is always someone there to talk to. You are never alone. So not just today, but every day – “let’s talk.”

Sometimes, when we are stuck inside our own heads, suffering deeply and afraid to expose ourselves, we forget that others close to us may be dealing with their own issues of similar weight and depth.

Seeing her post took me out of myself, and reminded me that I didn’t have to suffer alone – and neither did she.

The Reality

Reading the statistics that “one in five Canadians will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lifetime,” I was astounded. All of a sudden, it didn’t feel so personal.

When you are the one feeling the weight of the world on your shoulders, it can be isolating and utterly overwhelming. It can also be extremely lonely.

But these statistics show us that we’re not alone. Far from it.

Mental illness affects us all and has likely touched our lives in one way or another, through our relationships with friends and loved ones, or through personal experience.

However, a stigma around mental illness still permeates our culture.

Bell Let’s Talk’s website says that “One of the biggest hurdles for anyone suffering from mental illness is overcoming the stigma. It is the number one reason why two-thirds of those living with a mental illness do not seek help.”

As someone with a tendency to keep everything “ugly” locked up inside me, these statistics came as less of a shock to me, but they were still equally troubling.

Keeping The Conversations Alive

The next day, I saw a friend’s post on Facebook reflecting on #BellLet’sTalk that absolutely blew me away.

I’ve shared it here with her permission:

She’s absolutely right.

Dedicating one day a year to ending the stigma isn’t enough. This is exactly why talking about it openly is so important – today and every day.

Stronger Together

The only way to end the stigma around mental illness is to understand it, and sharing our stories with others helps break down the myths and judgements surrounding it.

We all have an important role to play here.

If you are struggling with mental illness – speak it.

If you aren’t – be a listener. Be a supporter. Be a light.

What are your thoughts on this initiative? Share in the comments below.

About Allison Burney

I’m a coffee-addicted writer with a passion for anything and everything travel or adventure-related. I love reading, both for pleasure and to learn something new. I’m on a mission to never stop learning, growing, challenging myself, and being the best me I can be.

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