Did you participate in Bell Let’s Talk Day on Tuesday? The initiative sought to raise money to support mental health treatment and help break down the negative stigma associated with these issues. As part of the initiative, Bell donated 5 cents for every tweet, phone call, text, and Facebook share. By day’s end, over 109,451,718 messages raised $5,472,585, with musicians, writers, comedians – even astronauts – participating on Twitter and turning a seldom-discussed topic into a trending one.
Raise 5 cents for charity just by tweeting this hashtag: #BellLetsTalk, first let’s retweet!
— Ellen DeGeneres (@TheEllenShow) January 29, 2014
On my own personal accounts, I saw countless people sharing their stories of mental health issues. In fact, according to Bell:
“Twitter propelled Bell Let’s Talk Day like never before, with #BellLetsTalk the top Twitter trend yesterday in Canada and #3 in the world, and topics like mental health also trending throughout the day. The 3,016,621 tweets and retweets on Bell Let’s Talk Day 2014 were 93% more than the 1,562,485 sent in 2013.”
Whilst naysayers will say that this initiative benefits Bell as much as mental health – I personally disagree. What Bell Let’s Talk Day did was act as a catalyst for discussions that wouldn’t normally happen. 20% of Canadians will personally experience a mental illness in their lifetime. Despite this, a significant portion of people will never seek help and will suffer in silence, due to the negative stigma that is associated with having a mental health issue. In fact, almost 49% of those who feel they have suffered from depression or anxiety have never gone to see a doctor about their problem.
However, with so many people participating and showing their support for mental health on Bell Let’s Talk Day, normative social influence conspired to make it okay to discuss mental health issues, share stories, and discuss topics that sufferers often go to great lengths to hide. As Olympian Clara Hughes, the face (or smile) of the campaign, said:
To think how far we’ve come in 4 years – from minimal attention and even fear of discussing mental health to domination of the conversation. We talked all day, in every way, and we’re going to keep on talking to improve Canada’s mental health.
I agree – talking about these issues is the first step towards progress. While the initiative did generate significant brand awareness for Bell, I believe the initiative went beyond that. Heck – even their key competitor, Rogers, thought so!
— RogersBuzz (@RogersBuzz) February 12, 2013
The conversations I saw on Tuesday could help to propel a cultural shift to a future that is more open and understanding of mental health issues. I know for myself, seeing so many people sharing their stories and struggles was very impactful and I believe it harnessed the best qualities of social media – conversation and connectivity – for a very positive purpose.