Whether you joined in on the conversation or not, it was hard to check social media on Jan. 30 without stumbling across a #BellLetsTalk post.
The annual “Bell Let’s Talk” campaign started in 2010 by Bell, a Canadian phone company, with the intention to spread mental health awareness. One day a year the company pledges to donate $0.05 to Canadian mental health organizations for every interaction with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk. Each post shared including the hashtag raised money and awareness for mental health.
This includes tweets, retweets, text messages and views that their official video receives. The company also donates money for every use of the campaign’s official Facebook profile picture frame or Snapchat filter, according to its website.
[media-credit id=2238 align=”alignright” width=”300″][/media-credit]Along with the donations, the company also aims to remove the stigma around conversations about mental health.
“Mental health is a serious, pervasive, underfunded, highly stigmatized yet very common health issue nobody wants to talk about,” said Mary Deacon, the chair of Bell’s Let’s Talk to CTV’s Your Morning. “Much like many other health issues, it was really time to put this in the spotlight and give it the kind of attention and profile it deserves.”
Deacon was inspired to start the campaign after witnessing both of her brothers’ struggle with mental illness and each later committing suicide. It was then that she swore to improve mental healthcare in Canada.
“I believe we all have a lot to celebrate,” Deacon said. “New knowledge about the brain, new medications and treatments and, in many parts of the word, greater awareness and understanding of the impact of stigma as a barrier to people getting appropriate and timely care.”
With a greater awareness of mental health, the number of college students seeking to get help from counseling services on campuses across the country has risen from 30 to 40 percent, according to the Center for Collegiate Mental Health.
The company’s message of ending the stigma spread quickly after the hashtag rose to be the number one trending topic worldwide Jan. 30 on Twitter. Users shared their own struggles with mental health and addiction along with words of positivity. Ellen DeGeneres, Michael Bublé and Justin Timberlake were among the millions of people who participated in the worldwide event.
“What the world needs more of is kindness,” DeGeneres tweeted (@TheEllenShow). “And better mental health.”
Professional athletes also used their platform to get involved with the campaign by spreading a positive message.
“We turn up the mental health volume on Bell Let’s Talk Day, letting all those who struggle know they have our support and can reach out for help without fear,” said Clara Hughes, an Olympic athlete and Bell Let’s Talk spokesperson. “I am so excited to be part of the incredible journey to making Canada a nation free of the stigma around mental illness.”
Over the course of 10 years, the company has generated more than 850 million interactions and has donated more than $93.4 million to mental health organizations, according to its website. These particular organizations help communities in each of Canada’s provinces and its territories.
Despite the donations only being distributed to Canadian organizations, the campaign has garnered international attention and with good reason. One in three college freshmen worldwide reports having a mental health disorder, according to the American Psychological Association.
With the success of the campaign, the company plans to continue the tradition of its annual focus on mental health in the future.
“It really is about how people engage,” Deacon said. “We really have no control, it really depends on how much people engage and how much it takes off.”