It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day - It’s also time for ACTION!
At some point in everyone’s life their mental health will be negatively affected by any of a wide range of factors such as winter darkness, grief, regrets, worries, illness, and on and on. The Bell Let’s Talk initiative opens up the conversation and awareness of mental health in an effort to target mental illness stigma and remind those struggling that they are not alone.
If mental health problems or illness affect us all, then why is discrimination against mental illness still so common in our society? According to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, “60% of people with a mental health problem or illness won’t seek help for fear of being labeled.” They also state that stigma is “a social process that aims to exclude, reject, shame, and devalue groups of people on the basis of a particular characteristic…stigma sheds light on who in society has access to the power and privilege necessary to define rules and apply sanctions for violating them —those who do, become the beneficiaries of stigma; those who do not, become its subjects.” The complex oppressive function of stigma suggests that talk alone is not enough to eradicate it. We need to do more.
According to the WHO, the 3 most important determinants of mental health are: Social inclusion, freedom from discrimination and violence, and access to opportunities and resources. What does all of this mean? We must re-focus our attention from individual mental suffering to how, as a collective, we are all involved and affected by oppression and mental health. In other words, this is not an individual issue - it is a societal issue and requires collective action. This means taking the conversation a step further to re-establish connections and solidarity with each other and to effectively call policy makers into actions where they meaningfully and sustainably address the social determinants of mental health.