Let’s Talk

Mental illness is something that not many people feel comfortable talking about–at least from where I came from.  I didn’t know that people suffered from depression or bi-polar disorder.  In Guyana we used to see people walking around, dishevelled, shaking their fists and shouting and we stayed clear of them.  They were simply called mad people.  Now I realize that these people could have been suffering from mental illness and were not getting the care they needed. 

I came from a society where people kept things to themselves.  No one liked to talk about private matters.  So I was stunned when I came to North America and watched talk shows where people talked freely about very personal things.  They spoke about their relationships, sometimes giving very intimate details.  They spoke openly mental illness, addictions, abuse, etc.  It was therapeutic for them.  They could finally face up to what they had and deal with it.  I never knew that a few members of my family suffered from mental illness until years later.  I didn’t see any signs.  People were good at hiding things.

Mental illness is not to be feared or dismissed or swept under the rug.  It is something that we need to talk and educate ourselves about.  We need to understand what it’s all about so that we can offer better support to our loved ones and friends who have had to live with the stigma all their lives.  Bi-polar disorder is something I have become very familiar with.  People close to me have it and I have seen what happens when they come off of their medication.  It is very upsetting and unsettling.  They are not the same people.  They do things that they wouldn’t ordinarily do.  They dress differently.  They are either manic or depressed.  They spend money on things they can’t afford.  They become paranoid.  They believe that someone is out to hurt them.  They seem to have a beef with certain people.  They might get themselves in trouble with the law.  They end up in hospital where they stay for a while.  Sometimes they are discharged before they should be.  The more often they come off of their medication, the longer it takes for them to get back on track. 

It’s a vicious cycle.  Their families get tired of it.  They wonder why their loved ones don’t stay on their medication so that they don’t wind up in the psychiatric ward.  That part of the hospital is depressing.  I can’t imagine that it’s conducive for the patients.

February 8, 2012 is Bell Let’s Talk Day. Canadians are invited to join Bell in the conversation about mental health by talking, calling, texting or retweeting.  For every text message and long distance call made by Bell and Bell Aliant customers on this day, Bell will donate 5 cents to mental health programs.  Bell also launched this year’s Let’s Talk Community Fund.  This community fund is part of the Bell Mental Health Initiative, a $50 million multi-year national program in support of mental health.  Through the Community Fund, Bell will provide grants of $5,000 to $50,000 to organizations, hospitals and agencies focused on improving access to mental health care and making a positive impact in their communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast.

The Let’s Talk campaign is a testimony to Bell’s commitment to fight the stigma of around mental illness.  The spokesperson is Clara Hughes, the only athlete in history to win multiple medals in Winter and Summer Olympics.

Every time I saw Clara Hughes, she had a huge smile on her face.  I never imagined that behind that smile was a dark and lonely place for the six-time Olympic medallist.  For two years she battled depression.  She is proud to be the spokesperson for Let’s Talk.  She speaks openly about her own struggles with depression which began after she won two bronze medals in cycling at the 1996 Olympics.  Read about her story.  The struggle is still there for her as it is for others with mental illness.  The good thing is that it’s out in the open.   It is not a battle that they are facing alone.  Hughes’ goal  is “open up the dialogue” for Canadians struggling with mental illness.  On February 8 she will be joined by singer-songwriter Stefie Shock and actor-comedian Michel Mpambara who share their own stories of struggle and recovery. 

Hughes is making a huge difference in this campaign.  Last year Canadians responded to her call with a total of over 66 million messages and long distance calls.  This year marks the second annual Let’s Talk Day.  The goal is to beat last year’s total. 

On Wednesday, February 8, take action–talk, call, text messages.  Watch the new documentary Darkness and Hope:  Depression, Sports and Me hosted by TSN personality and ‘Off The Record’ host Michael Landsberg airing on CTV at 7 p.m. ET and CTV Mobile.  Help to support this campaign that will make mental illness visible and remove its stigma. 

If you are interested in being a part of Let’s Talk Day or need more information, visit Bell’s website

A lot of people don’t realize that depression is an illness. I don’t wish it on anyone, but if they would know how it feels, I swear they would think twice before they just shrug it.
Jonathan Davis
 
For too long we have swept the problems of mental illness under the carpet… and hoped that they would go away.
Richard J. Codey
 
I have suffered from depression for most of my life. It is an illness.
Adam Ant
 

Sources:  http://www.clara-hughes.com/; http://www.cbc.ca/sports/olympics/story/2011/02/06/sp-hughes-q-a.html; http://www.cbc.ca/sports/hockey/story/2011/02/06/sp-hughes-q-a.html; Read more: http://www.ctv.ca/CTVNews/Health/20100921/bell-mental-health-00921/#ixzz1lNRfQCMF

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