Guest blog by Dr. Heather Stuart
Professor and Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-stigma Research Chair
Department of Public Health Sciences
We’re gearing up for another Bell Let’s Talk Day on January 27th.
This is the day that Bell donates 5¢ for every text message, mobile or long distance call made by Bell or Bell Aliant customers, Tweet using #BellLetsTalk, or Facebook share of the Bell Let’s Talk Day image.
Funds raised go to mental health initiatives including the Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-stigma Research Chair here at Queen’s University (gifted in February 2012). This is an unprecedented initiative. By January 2015, #BellLetsTalk was the number one trend on Twitter in Canada and worldwide, with over four million tweets representing a 100% increase over the first BellLetsTalk day. This shows that Canadians are on board and the conversation is growing.
As part of the Bell Chair initiative at Queen’s, members of the Faculty of Health Sciences have worked with Morneau Shepell and Bell to develop the first manager certification training for workplace mental health in the world, and the first such training to be certified by an academic institution.
Other programs developed collaboratively through the Chair’s activities include a course for people with anxiety and depression to assist them in overcoming stigma (with members of the Department of Psychiatry and students from the Neurosciences program), and a large Movember funded intervention research project to help first year undergraduate students understand the relationship between mental health and alcohol misuse (with members of the School of Rehabilitation Therapy, and colleagues from University of Calgary, University of Alberta, and Dalhousie University).
Each year, Queen’s (through the Chair) and Bell host a large public event to raise awareness about the role of stigma and to profile five simple things people can do to minimize it. These have been featured in the Let’s Talk commercials and on the Let’s Talk web site (letstalk.bell.ca). The lecture moves around (Toronto, Ottawa, Halifax, and later this spring, Vancouver). Public interest in the lectures has been high. These activities illustrate some of the important collaborations and accomplishments that have grown out of the funding for the Chair at Queen’s.
On September 2015, Bell announced a further 5-year commitment to mental health, doubling the previous funding commitment to $100 million. And, who can forget Clara’s Big Ride, which took this former Olympian on a 110-day journey of more than 11,000 kilometers to 105 communities across Canada to open the conversation about mental illnesses and reduce the shame and stigma. The Governor General and Prime Minister, as well as 160 elected officials and leaders openly supported a stigma-free Canada.
We all recognize that there is still a long way to go and we all have a part to play. Check out letstalk.bell.ca to find out the five simple things we all can all do to help reduce stigma. In the mean time, keep the conversation going. Support Bell Let’s Talk Day on January 27th.
If you have any comments about this mental health initiative, please respond to the blog, or better yet, drop by the Macklem House…my door is always open.