Bell Let’s Talk: Beyond the Corporate Love-In

Today is the annual Bell Let’s Talk Day — an event to raise money and awareness for mental health issues and organizations. For each text, call, and program-based Tweet/Facebook update you make, Bell will donate 5ยข to help fund mental health initiatives across Canada.

For the third year in a row, I’ve been active in promoting it, both on Facebook and Twitter.

Which is odd. Because I’m not really a meme guy.

And I’m far from being a corporate shill or cheerleader.

To be perfectly honest, I’m not sure that the money raised by Bell in this initiative will actually make a heap of difference. In fact, I’m not sure it will do much at all. Call me a skeptic when it comes to these kind of big business rah-rah movements. Call me a realist when I note how absolutely underfunded programs for mood disorders are. Part of me recognizes that the donation Bell makes will not equal the tax break and marketing value that the event represents.

For folks like Bell, I’m probably not a great example of corporate camaraderie.

But I am a guy who has suffered from mood disorders.

I’m a guy who has been scared to answer the telephone. I’m a guy who sometimes looked at the day ahead and saw speaking engagements, television interviews, board meetings, whatever… all the while wondering where to find the energy and the will to tie my own shoes.

I’m a guy who has seen blackness. Sheer, utter dark.

And I’m a guy who is not scared to talk about it. At least not when asked.

This is why I’ve put on the corporate blinders for the third year in a row — why I’ve helped Bell gain some valuable marketing territory by Tweeting and Facebooking the Bell Let’s Talk initiative.

I do so because I remember the relief I’ve felt in the past when people I knew asked me about my depression. About, you know… how I was actually doing. I recognize the continued sense of relief when friends stop and ask how I am below the surface.

Let me tell you, the worst thing about being a functional person with depression is that everyone always assumes that you’re doing OK.

And the hardest thing to do as a functional person with depression is reaching out to tell people when you are not.

For the record, folks, I’m not doing too badly, thank-you very much. I’m feeling healthy. Strong. At least that’s the forecast for today. I’ve worked hard to make that the forecast for tomorrow. A lifetime of tomorrows.

Truth be told, I’m feeling pretty darned good — particularly today. And part of today’s smile is due to this “Let’s Talk” initiative.

I’m happy that something like 35 cents has gone to charity for my couple of bits of social interaction. I honestly hope that Bell raises a kazillion dollars and it all goes to finding help for people who hurt.

But, more than that, I’m happy that, for at least one day, people are being honest about their mental health. That they are being brave enough to say: “Hey, you know what? This sucks.”

Or, better yet: “Hey, you know what? I’m feeling better.”

I’m happy to see people of social influence talking about how they feel, about how they’ve felt, and about what they do to make themselves feel more healthy. I’m honestly proud to see people with mood disorders taking on leadership roles and helping normalize talk about depression, anxiety, and other forms of mental illness.

Because here is an absolute truth: when you are sick, it is so, so hard to lead.

So here’s the deal with this whole “Let’s Talk” thing: Every time we have an event like this, mood disorders become just that little bit more part of our normal discourse. They become an issue that more and more people are aware of. They become more of a priority.

If all goes well, this attention might just lead to a greater allocation of funds, resources, and patient care for mood disorders and the people who suffer from them.

I know, crazy talk, right?

Hopefully, it will also lead to more people being honest about how they feel. Hopefully it will lead to more people reaching out and asking for a minute of time, an ear to listen, a bit of conversation. For help.

Hopefully, it will just inspire us to talk.

And talking feels good. It can make some of the hurt go away. It can be that first step to really getting better.

So, yeah… What Bell said.

Let’s talk. Let’s really talk about it.

And not just today, OK?

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4 Comments

  1. Sue McGregor-Hunter
    Posted January 28, 2014 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    Great article Donald.

    What you did not mention was the hell you went through, first to find a good doctor who could properly treat you and then finding the right medicine for you. Most of us who have never experienced depression have no idea of the process that is involved in finding the right medicine and the right dosage. It is not a simple process like “I have an infection = here is an antibiotic pill”. I vividly remember that you looked stoned on some meds and others made you look like you were pulled through a wringer. It was a difficult process.

    I know this campaign is about raising awareness but I think the lack of good treatment options outside of large cities is an issue to be raised as well. Perhaps Bell, through its donations, should look at making sure treatment is readily accessible whether you live in Toronto or Timmins.

  2. Donald Fraser
    Posted January 28, 2014 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    The funny thing is that I didn’t find a good doctor. The first one I had put me on horribly addictive benzodiazepines. So, while I spent a few years in a bit of blissful la-la land, I ended up being addicted to today’s version of valium. Boy, that was fun. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    My next doctor felt that the only cure was anti-depressants. All of which made me feel sick. Really, really sick.

    But, you’re right. There is no bandaid. Nor is there any magic pill.

    Really, what helped me through was talk. And exercise. And a daily commitment to working hard. Some life changes. And more work. And more talk.

    Also, I’m totally with you. I would love to see treatment centres available for ALL Canadians. No matter where they are.

    Thanks, Sue!

  3. Erik Hanson
    Posted January 28, 2014 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    I’m with Sue. I remember years ago talking to my family doctor who recommended a referral to a psychiatrist as I dealt with some stuff in my life. The best he could come up with was a psychiatrist who came up from Toronto ONCE A MONTH to see patients at the Nichols Building. I finally ended up having to travel to TO for regular appointments. Circuit riding shrinks are not good preventative medicine.

  4. Donald Fraser
    Posted January 28, 2014 at 10:09 am | Permalink

    Erik,

    We have systemic problems with addressing mood disorders in our health care system. The other thing that I hope comes from days like this is pressure on our government to make sure that this issue gets addressed. More needs to be done across the board.

    We are failing too many people. And the stakes of this failure are often lives.

    I agree wholeheartedly with your comment. 100%.

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