Every year, Canadian telco and media giant Bell Canada runs a campaign called Bell Let’s Talk. It features ads in print, online, on transit, and on TV, urging Canadians to tweet about mental health using their hashtag. The idea is to get people talking about mental health to raise awareness and fight the stigma faced by those with mental illness. Bell also donates 5 cents per tweet to mental health-related causes.
This campaign has long made me feel uncomfortable. Sure, some of the money does go to helpful causes. There’s no denying that. But it presents a very limited view of mental illness. In fact, it rarely, if ever, uses the words “mental illness” preferring “mental health” instead.. A psychiatrist I interviewed, who did not want to be quoted by name on this, told me that Bell Let’s Talk and other awareness campaigns “do nothing for us.” Us being teams like his, dealing with people who fall under the umbrella of psychosis.
I approached the Globe and Mail about running an opinion piece on the failings of anti-stigma and mental health awareness campaigns, and they enthusiastically agreed to run it. You can read the story here.
I am writing a book about new understandings of psychosis, and how they are revolutionizing our approach to mental illness. I come to this subject through my own experience as the father of someone who has been through psychosis—and as someone who has at times dealt with near-crippling depression.
So I will be writing more on this subject in the months ahead.
If you’d like to read more of my writing on mental health and mental illness, here are a few of my stories.
Safety Net (Dal Magazine): Our family’s experience with the Nova Scotia Early Psychosis Clinic.
Mad and Proud (Halifax Magazine): Halifax takes steps towards a mad pride movement.
Laughing in the Face of Mental Illness (Halifax Magazine): Standup comics who also live with mental illness and who draw on their experiences for laughs. (One opens his set with, “I’m a paranoid schizophrenic… Why are you here?”)