Some of you may have seen the hashtag, #BellLetsTalk, that has taken to Twitter recently. #BellLetsTalk is just part of the Bell Let’s Talk initiative that is a multi-year charitable programed dedicated to mental health and ending the stigma that comes along with mental health. While this initiative is based in Canada, the power of Social Media has taken it to whole new level. The hashtag has continued to be tweeted all around the world, not just in Canada, since January 28th, and it is really raising awareness on mental health to the masses. This Canada based initiative has “committed over $73.6 million to support a wide range of mental health organizations, large and small, from coast to coast” according to their website. Bell Let’s Talk is built off of four pillars: anti-stigma, care and access, workplace health, and research. All of these pillars are where change needs to be made in order to make a better world for those people with mental illness.
On the Bell Lets Talk website, many made a testimonial on their thoughts of the stigma with mental health and their own experiences with mental health. Canadian Cyclist, Clara Hughes speaks on the issue with the stigma that comes along with mental health. Hughes speaks about how people with mental illnesses often go unnoticed and untreated “because it’s so invisible.” Hughes goes on to comment how, “I meet so many people, they might tell one person and that person have been me that day that they finally told.” Hughes strongly believes that the biggest issue stigma causes is insecurity amongst those with mental illness, making them not want to tell anyone. Hughes goes on to mention how, “The judgment is there because of misunderstanding, lack of education, and ignorance. We need to be better.” Those who have mental illness in their lives do not often have an opening ad and accepting environment to run to, because a society we have put mental health on the back burner – which is not okay, and just as Hughes says, “We need to be better.”
Howie Mandel, who is a Canadian comedian, host, and actor, speaks on his experience with OCD and how the stigma affected his experience with being open about his own struggles. Mandel adds how, “If we take care of our mental health, like we take care of our dental health – we’ll be okay.” What Mandel is getting at is, physical health is put on a pedestal in this society. If you have a dentist appointment to get a cavity filled in no one thinks twice, but the second you tell someone you see a therapist, you will get judged and question on your mental illness. Canadian sports commenter, Michael Landsberg, also speaks on behalf f his experience with mental illness. Landsberg believes that people in this society view depression, “as more of a weakness than a sickness.” Which is a huge problem, because those who are suffering from depression are not getting the help they need and are being made feel weak, when in reality, they are strong, they just need to have an accepting and understanding world to open to and get the help they need.
It is clear that mental health holds a lot of stigma within it, and this stigma is not helping those with mental health cope and be more open about their struggles. The biggest issue with mental health nowadays is the public tends to focus on the mental health those are suffering from, rather than focus on the person as a person. It is too often people refer to those going through something such as OCD, Depression, or an Eating Disorder as, "obsessive", "depressed", or "anorexic" rather than as a person first, their mental issue last. People who suffer from mental illnesses also are put into a category and that is not right. We cannot cateogrize people - a person, is a person. That is the largest stigma that we as a society need to get over when it comes to mental health. It is never a sign of weakness to get help for something you are struggling with, it is a sign of strength and desire to get better. Everyone has something they are suffereing with and the more we put people with mental health in a box labeled "crazy" or "invisible" the more we are creating a stigma. No one likes to be stigmatized and #BellLetsTalk is helping bring awarness to this issue. Be part of the change and engage in conversation.
If you are suffering - someone is on your side, I promise. UNH has services that are here to help you such a: