Telecommunications giant Bell Media is once again focusing on what continues to be a difficult topic to discuss on January 27: mental health. With such luminaries as former Olympian Clara Hughes, comedian Howie Mandel, and sportscaster Michael Landsberg, among others, joining the Bell Let’s Talk team this year, the team at Bell is spreading the word about mental health and trying to raise funds while doing it.
According to the Bell Let’s Talk Day website, every time the hashtag #BellLetsTalk is used on Twitter, the Bell Let’s Talk logo is used on Facebook, or there is a text message or phone call made on the Bell network, Bell intends to donate $0.05 CDN to research initiatives regarding mental health. This is not the first year Bell has run the campaign; Bell’s intent is that this is a multi-year campaign in which they have pledged over $100 million to support mental health initiatives across Canada.
In support of Bell Let’s Talk Day, CTV News, in addition to other properties owned by Bell, has lined up some 80 hours of programming revolving around the issue of mental health. Whether the topic is teen mental health and addiction or what the sports world is doing to help get the conversation going in a more open manner about mental health, there is a wealth of Bell properties dedicated to getting the topic out there.
Broadcaster Magazine said that Bell Media president Mary Ann Turcke wants to see the conversation about mental health grow and continue until there is no longer a need to inspire the conversation and it can be as organic as a conversation about the weather.
“Though great strides have been made in reducing the stigma surrounding mental illness, we still have a ways to go – which is why we will keep the conversation going until there is no longer a need to do so,” she said.
Olympian Clara Hughes was one of the first to get on board with Bell Let’s Talk Day. The Canadian sports icon has the rare distinction of being one of a handful of athletes to have competed in both the Summer and the Winter Olympics, but she is also well known in Canada for sharing her struggles with depression.
According to her website, “One in five people will experience a form of mental illness at some point and most will be reluctant to talk to a co-worker, friend or family member about their struggle, let alone seek treatment.”
Howie Mandel also recounted a time when he was on The Howard Stern Show and someone would not open the door for him. The comedian was officially diagnosed with obsessive compulsive disorder and has been a steadfast mental health advocate for years, but he was unaware that when someone had not opened the door for him and he was beginning to panic, admitting that he had OCD and was seeing a psychotherapist for it, that he was still on air. He noted that while he was deeply embarrassed by the incident, it wasn’t until someone had acknowledged listening to the broadcast and admitting that he, too, had OCD that Mandel realized that he shouldn’t be embarrassed by his admission while on the air.
According to a column Mandel wrote for Additude, a magazine dedicated to helping those with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and learning disabilities, he was diagnosed as having ADD and OCD as an adult but couldn’t recall a time when he hadn’t demonstrated symptoms. He noted that while his family was tremendously supportive, there were still instances where the conditions could be very difficult to live with.
“It can be hard — sometimes terrifying and dark — to manage the symptoms of my disorders,” he admitted.
He noted, though, that following the incident on The Howard Stern Show, he was comforted by those who admitted to having similar conditions to his. That is perhaps why he got involved with Bell Let’s Talk Day. Mandel says that people need to be as comfortable talking about going to the dentist as they do talking about their mental health.
Mandel’s video for Bell Let’s Talk Day is featured below, but he is not the only noteworthy Canadian involved in the campaign. In addition to Hughes, Landsberg, and Mandel, Canadians Mary Walsh and singer Serena Ryder join the Bell Let’s Talk discussion about mental health.
[Photo by Chris Hondros/Getty Images]