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Bell Let’s Talk day is a good beginning for a conversation that needs to happen all year

Since 2010, Bell Canada has been running its mental health initiative “Let’s Talk” every Jan. 26.

By donating money for every hashtag, retweet, video view, or text message sent on Bell Mobility networks, the initiative has raised millions for Canadian mental health over the years.

According to the official Let’s Talk website, Bell’s total funding commitment through 2025 will be “at least $155 million.”

I’m not going to say that Let’s Talk isn’t a good initiative to get people talking about mental health; it most certainly is.

The problem with it, and many of these other “health holidays” which can be found throughout the calendar is that they can get lost in the noise.

Sticking with mental health — the subject I am most passionate about — , January has Let’s Talk, February is Psychology Month, May has Mental Health Week, September has World Suicide Prevention Day and finally October has World Mental Health Day.

Despite all these “health holidays,” depressingly little is heard about mental health and it remains one of the least funded, and understood, components of healthcare.

Yes, things have changed over the last two decades.

Mental health issues and mental illness are no longer the topics whispered in shadows that they once were, yet they are still far from the realm of being able to be discussed openly.

Don’t get me wrong, I am open about the struggles I have had; I’m also in the minority, and have done so despite family suggesting I keep things to myself.

The problem is, if I keep things to myself, if everyone keeps things to themselves, how can we learn from each other?

The short answer is: we don’t.

I know the current mental health system we have needs work.

It can be demoralizing.

I’ve lost track of the number of doctors I’ve been through and the number of times I’ve passed through the Emergency Room while struggling to hang on to my sanity.

The thing is, I stayed with it.

I eventually found the right team to support me, the right medication to stabilize me, and the right job to work with me and allow me to be a contributing member of society again.

I know know how demoralizing it can be.

I’ve been there.

I’ve wanted to give up and not look back, however, I am glad I kept fighting through; though admittedly the last couple of years have been a challenge again.

It’s not even so much the pandemic, but the division and nastiness that I never would have expected out of people.

I don’t think it is unreasonable to say that the pandemic has divided our communities, and our country, like never before.

It has definitely put a strain on people’s mental health.

What makes it harder is when people don’t necessarily have the family support.

Battling through mental illness is a lonely enough journey without adding in the complications of family dynamics.

Yet, people do not have to suffer through a mental illness diagnosis alone.

Talk to your doctor.

Talk to a friend.

If you are at risk, go to the Emergency Room.

Find a support group.

Share your story, because you never know the effect it will have on someone else.

It could save their life, or it could save yours.

The health holidays, such as “Let’s Talk,” are a good start to an important conversation but it is a conversation that needs to happen every day of the year.

It is a conversation that starts with each one us.

If you are in imminent risk of self-harm or suicide call 911, go to the nearest Emergency Room or call the provincial Mental Health help line at 1-877-303-2642.