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Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Let's Talk- Bell Let's Talk Campaign and what it means to me

By: Christine Smith (McFarlane)

Let's talk about mental health and the stigma that still surrounds it. Say I'm feeling more than just a bit blue, let me explain what its like for someone who experiences depression on a daily basis.

Depression for me is like a darkness that surrounds me. No one sees it but me, so essentially it makes me feel really alone. It zaps my energy, makes me a weepy mess and some days makes me not want to get out of bed because it's just too much to have to deal with the darkness and impending doom I feel.

I was in and out of hospital with thoughts of suicide and attempts were made. Three times I almost didn't make it, but I was lucky, the doctors brought me back. That my friends explains the early years of my depression, and the worst thing was that I didn't know what was wrong with me and why I was feeling the way I was feeling.

I was diagnosed with severe depression amongst other things when I was seventeen years old. At its worst, my depression made me miserable and nobody wanted to be around me. I couldn't eat, sleep, be happy or crack a smile for more than a minute. When nobody wanted to be around me, that was when I needed someone the most. I don't blame anyone, I blame the stigma of mental health and what it means to society. Now I take medication that helps me to keep functioning, and to operate on a daily basis. I say that unabashedly because it is has taken me years for me to say "Hey! yeah I have mental illness and it's not something to be ashamed of."

This brings me to January 28, 2015. This is Bell Let's Talk Day. Bell Let's Talk, in fact is a campaign that is very important. It's a multi year charitable program dedicated to mental health. Bell has committed over $67.5 million to support a wide range of mental health organizations, large and small, from coast to coast.

There are four pillars to the Bell Let's Talk Campaign. They involve anti-stigma, care and access, workplace health and research. One of the biggest hurdles with someone suffering from mental illness is overcoming the stigma attached to it. The annual Bell Let's Talk awareness campaign and Day is trying to drive the national conversation to help reduce this stigma and promote awareness and understanding. Bell believes talking is the first step towards lasting change.

Can you imagine how many people would benefit from just knowing that they can sit and talk about their illness? I think of my friend Brian who took his own life in September 2014, and I have so many questions for him. I wonder could his life have been saved? I miss him so much.

According to the Bell Let's Talk Campaign, "Only one-third of those who need mental health related services in Canada will receive treatment." That is why Bell supports a variety of organizations including community agencies, hospitals and universities.

I know if it wasn't for the Centre for Mental Health and Addiction (CAMH) and the supports from friends, I may not be sitting here today writing this. I am not saying that to be melodramatic, I am saying it because it is true. Depression can be that bad and it was that bad for me.

The Bell Let's Talk Day has a Community Fund that is a part of the Bell Let's Talk Mental Health Initiative. Through the Community Fund, Bell will provide grants in the range of $5,000 to $50,000 to organizations in Canada focusing on improving access to programs and services that support and help improve the mental health and well-being of people living with mental health issues.

On Bell Let's Talk Day, I want to say "I want to see the stigma surrounding mental illness be eradicated. I want people to be able to talk about what it is that is getting to them, so that they don't feel so alone. Lastly I want to say "Don't you think its time to


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