February 20th, 2019

Cut the cynicism: Mental health should be talked about

By Medicine Hat News Opinon on February 5, 2019.

Mental health issues have always been in society as has any human ailment.

A lot of it was swept under the rug and not talked about years ago, primarily because it was misunderstood by society in general with the prevailing attitude seeming to be the work to try to understand mental health issues wasn’t worth it.

Equally as negative people with mental health issues were labeled with some sort of snap, non-compassionate or ignorant judgments such as “crazy”, “psycho”, a “drama king/queen”, or “just wanting attention.”

With the development of psychology and mental health professionals and medication, mental health treatment improved with one aspect remaining constant: the stigma of mental health issues remaining on the minds of everyone those who live with it and those who don’t.

In years past, the biggest part of the stigma was the lack of discussion about mental health: not many people understood causes, treatment; how to react to those who have a mental illness or how to react to themselves what will happen if left with treatment or even defining what mental illness is (i.e. feeling blue vs. depression) etc.

Facts weren’t know, just (false) assumptions and incorrect concepts i.e. like Jan. 21 aka Blue Monday being the most depressing day of the year.

That has changed over the years. Open discussion about mental illness has become prevalent much to the chagrin of some.

One can hear the collective groans or picture the eyes rolling of cynics seeing social media media posts or television spots promoting Bell’s Let’s Talk Day held on Jan. 30. The idea is that Bell will donate 5 cents for “every applicable text, call, tweet, social media video view and use of our Facebook frame or Snapchat filter.” The money that is generated goes into a community fund.

Cynics will look at “Bell: Let’s Talk” and say who are they helping? Themselves or those with mental health issues. After all, Bell is reporting all that has been accomplished with their initiative which they started in September 2010. These groups have to apply for funding.

In corporate speak: the community engagement Bell has enjoyed for taking up a cause and seeming helping individuals and groups across the country. One can take a tour and see explanations of what has been accomplished at https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/

From an outsider’s point of view, it is a way for Bell to garner positive publicity and being a good corporate citizen on a grand scale in order for new customers of maintaining that good fuzziness.

Marketing wise it is brilliant. Most companies will donate money to their favorite charity anyway but now Bell can point to numbers they have provided and make statements like: 87%of Canadians reported that they are more aware of mental health issues; 459,232 individuals supported through technology-based mental health programs; $93.4 million donated to mental health initiatives; and 6,313,777 individuals supported with access to mental health care. They do provide a list of what organizations they have helped. here are some in Alberta, much fewer in Saskatchewan.

While one can poke holes in Bell’s efforts and who is getting what, the point is: people are talking about mental health more. They are creating awareness amongst themselves and their peers.

Even if there are doubters about the importance of mental health or those who continue to remain ignorant by choice, those who don’t understand are at least aware of it. Some are even wanting to learn. Educating oneself is never a bad thing.

There are more visible groups out there who are getting the help they need but were unaware it was out there or too afraid to ask. Veterans, those in agriculture, people with PTSD.

It has taken a long time, but that mental health stigma if not ending, at the very decreasing significantly.

Those suffering with mental illness are not wanting attention, they are wanting help. Whatever you feel the motivation is of the Bell: Let’s Talk initiative, one cannot ignore the fact it has accomplished what it professes and advertises it will do: it has got the country talking about mental health and from that stems growth.

(Ryan Dahlman is the managing editor of Prairie Post East.)

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