Talking, texting and tweeting about mental health

Austin M.
Austin M. Davis
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Even Captain Kirk supported Bell Let’s Talk Day on Tuesday.

Canadian Olympic athlete Clara Hughes speaks during an announcement in Ottawa, Tuesday September 21, 2010. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld

Bell donated 5 cents to mental health for every text, call and tweet.

Mary Deacon, chair of the Let’s Talk initiative, said the goal was to inspire more than 100 million messages about mental health.

William Shatner, the actor who portrayed Captain Kirk in Star Trek, tweeted to his nearly 2-million followers, “According to what I read we need over 96 million Tweets and RTs of #BellLetsTalk to beat last year. Let's go for 100 million.”

“I just loved seeing (that),” said Deacon. “I was a big Star Trek fan.”

Deacon said if the initiative broke the 100-million mark, Bell would donate $5-million in to community programs and mental health initiatives across Canada.

Let’s Talk Day has had a lot of support from high-profile people. Six-time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes has been the Bell Let’s Talk Ambassador since its launch.

Athletes Shea Emry and Joé Juneau, musicians Matthew Good and Robb Nash and comic Kevin Breel were just a few of the celebrities promoting the cause.

“The most effective way to combat stigma is by contact with people with lived experience — so people who have experienced mental health issues,” Deacon said. “It challenges perceptions — very commonly held perceptions — about what people with mental health issues are like and what they can do.”

She said attaching the successes of those people to the mental health initiative makes the public rethink mental illness.

While 20 per cent of Canadians will experience a mental illness in their lifetimes, two in three suffer in silence.

“Mental health issues are very common,” Deacon said. “They’re treatable. Recovery is possible. People with mental health issues are really just like you and I, and our friends, our families and our loved ones.”

She said this massive, multi-million-dollar campaign is necessary to reverse the stigma that has existed for decades.

“There has been a lot of progress being made over the past number of years, but this campaign is really able to take it to a national stage and really raise the volume and the frequency of the discussion,” Deacon said.

She said Bell is uniquely capable of taking on an initiative like Let’s Talk Day.

But it’s impossible to imagine the campaign without text messaging, Twitter and Facebook.

In 2012, Bell received 26,000 tweets. In 2013, that number was up to 1.5-million.

She said that says a lot about the popularity of social media, and about its users.

“I think this is a cause that is really resonating with young people,” Deacon said.

“My hope is that they’re the generation that will, once-and-for-all, really eradicate the stigma.”

Organizations: Bell Let, Shea Emry and Joé Juneau

Geographic location: Canada

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