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#BellLet’sTalk: An open letter to Bell Canada

Bell Let's Talk about Mental Illness in Canada and how we can help kids


I think we need to talk.

You don’t know me, but you know my daughter. She’s the 1 in 5 in Canada with mental illness. Part of the 12% of girls under the age of 18 who has experienced a major depressive disorder.

You don’t know me, because as the mom of a teenager living with depression, I’ve been afraid to introduce myself.

I worry that by talking about my experience parenting a teenager with mental illness, I’ll put extra pressure on my daughter. I worry I’ll make her feel worse than she already does.

But lately, I’m beginning to think us parents need to start talking.

We need to share our experience so that people like you, with your big corporate power and friends in high places, understand what it’s like to stand in front of that plexi-glass window in emergency and say out loud, “My daughter is suicidal.”

I’m sorry to be such a Debbie Downer, Bell.

And don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I don’t appreciate what you’re doing. Without you, my daughter may have never asked me for help. Without you, agencies that are saving kids lives are able to fund research, open more beds, and hire more staff.

But when I see your billboard ads and streetcars, I can’t help but think that for all your commitment, celebrity endorsements, donations and partnerships, things have gotten worse for our kids these last nine years.

The Canadian Institute for Health Information reports a 66% increase in emergency department visits and a 56% increase in hospitalizations of children and youth for mental health concerns.

Hospitalizations as the result of intentional self-harm increased 102% for girls ages 10 to 17, between 2009 and 2014.

CAMH reports 14% of high school students contemplated suicide in the last year. Four per cent of high school students report having attempted suicide.

Unicef, just last year, ranked Canada 25th out of 41 rich nations for child and youth well being.

The Ministry of Children, Community and Social Services provided $460 million in transfer payments for community-based mental health services last year ($438 million the year previous), yet the Auditor General of Ontario, in the 2018 annual report, states there’s been “little to no progress on 76% of the recommendations made in 2016.”

You can see why it’s hard for me to feel encouraged these days.

The Mental Health Commission of Canada estimates mental illness costs our country $51 billion a year. That $100 million mark you hope to hit. It’s really just a drop in the bucket.

So, Bell, I’m wondering if maybe next year, we can try something different.

I don’t know if you’ve heard, but our obsession with tweeting, texting, posting, snapping, and instagramming is having a toll on our mental health.

And while I know having everyone share your corporate hashtag to do their part for mental health is a brilliant idea, and that it really has got people talking about mental health, I do wonder what a day of silence in the cybersphere might look like.

What if we all got off our phones? Left them at home in our sock drawer and looked each other in the eye in the schoolyard, at work, in the coffee line or on the subway. There are other ways to collect money.

Maybe, too, you could look into bringing back the old you. Yes, you were big and clunky and likely carried germs, but I can’t tell you how much I miss the old, wall mounted payphone.

What if you started appearing in our elementary and middles schools so that our kids, especially those still too young to self-regulate, could leave their devices at home? Like they do in France.

And if you wouldn’t mind, I’d love it if you could use your influence to sway Justin. I know you two are close. And I know he, too, has been personally touched by mental illness.

Please tell him, Bell, it’s time. It’s time to introduce the Mental Health Parity Act. Or at least take a long, hard look at it.

The Canadian Mental Health Commission reports that Canada spends the lowest proportion of funds on mental health of all G7 countries. Yet, 86% of Canadians believe the government should fund mental health at the same level as physical health.

Tell him it’s low-hanging fruit in an election year that could have huge impact.

Thanks for listening, Bell. I do feel better talking about this.

And my daughter? She’s doing really well right now. It took three years, thousands in out-of-pocket therapy, our family doctor, two school principals and countless teachers, a psychiatrist, four therapists, staff at Sick Kids Hospital and Rouge Valley Hospital, a very understanding boss, half a dozen different antidepressants, and a will of steel, but we made it.

She says she’s “happy.” What more could a parent ask for.

2 thoughts on “#BellLet’sTalk: An open letter to Bell Canada

  1. Every year I am annoyed by the Bell Let’s Talk campaign. I keep thinking-they have to try something different. I decided to take a look and see if maybe you had a entry about this. Boy was I excited to see this. So many great points here. Love it. Keep talking…I mean-writing.

    1. Thanks, Shellie. I know. I’m of divided minds. It’s great to see everyone engaging with it, especially schools and businesses. As a marketing campaign I think it’s brilliant. But then I find myself mindlessly tapping the like button on people’s posts. I think it’s ready for Bell Let’s Talk 2.0. Thanks for reading.

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