Jaggy's Corner! - Sunday February 3




January marks the month with an important day that I want to talk about. People usually start jumping on the inevitable band wagon known as the Bell Let's Talk campaign on January 30th. So, let's talk about the one 'official' day that brings awareness to mental health.

The campaign is aimed at promoting the importance of it, but in a lot of ways it seems like lip service. Yes. That's what I said. But before continuing, let's define the idiom: lip service is a term used when someone is in favor of an idea but won't actively support it.

So, what do I mean by the campaign seems like lip service?

It's simple - Bell started this campaign to raise awareness of various mental health challenges. And while campaigns to end the stigma are a worldwide phenomenon, I question how much is actually done. Yes, this campaign raises millions of dollars towards mental health initiatives. Yes, people band together to talk about their issues more openly, but does it really go as far as we believe it?

I pose this question because a friend linked to a Canadian article that left me speechless. It made me angry. In any case, the article talked about an Alberta student being evicted from his university campus after being discharged from the hospital after his second suicide attempt. Take a moment to think about that. The man had already been diagnosed with depression and yet the university made a spineless and disgusting decision to evict the student (which I should note was overturned later by the same man who sent the eviction notice to begin with). Pardon the French here but in what fucking world is that a logical response to the students' predicament? Seriously, the university practically gave the man a bottle of pills and said “have at it.”

Anyways, as much as I'm livid about that article, I read another opinion article published by The Globe and Mail on January 28th, that leads me to the lip service idea I mentioned previously. The writer Philip Moscovitch supports his dislike regarding people's openness about mental illness with passages like this:

One mental-health professional – who has a diagnosed mental illness and asked to remain anonymous because of potential career repercussions – told me she used to appear at awareness fundraising galas but doesn’t anymore. “You become kind of a dancing monkey." she said. “I’m there representing people with mental illness because I can put on a dress, look like a middle-class person, speak at a fancy event and not make people uncomfortable ... Meanwhile, people who are not being served well by the system would not even be allowed into the room.”

Mr. Moscovitch goes on to say that despite the widespread campaign, most people are afraid to speak out because of the negative professional consequences. Is that really the kind of thing the campaign is aiming at? In a word, no. Bell began the initiative to bring awareness to mental health but as demonstrated in the passage above, it seems more like a Hollywood production. 

Now, this is a video gaming news and review site, and as such, the last example I will use comes from an article written in early 2018. ESPN writer Tyler Erzberger wrote a piece titled, 'Mental health issues pervasive in esports'. He presents a number of points that the video gaming community sometimes forgets, such as:

When someone who lives a life in a box can't meet someone outside that box, what do they do? They use the computer, an extension of their work, to communicate with the outside world. Unlike traditional professional athletes who can get away from their stress after a bad stretch of games, competitive video game players, especially those who play computer games such as League of Legends, can't turn off the screen and walk away. When that monitor is the only place where you can go to talk to the world, the avalanche of hate messages, from trolls to people calling themselves "real fans," can't be avoided.”

Even in video gaming it seems like people want to talk about why mental health is important, but there are still professional gamers who are plagued with anxiety, depression, and suicidal behaviors.

So while the Bell Let's Talk Campaign is well intentioned, it still feels lip service. People in all walks of life struggle with mental illnesses but those that reach out for help are often stereotyped, ignored, or forgotten about. There are people that are on year long waiting lists to get the help they need from licenced professionals. Yet, millions of dollars are spent towards 'ending the stigma'. It begs the questions where is that money going and who benefits from it? Because it's clearly not the people stuck on waiting lists...

Has the campaign brought awareness? Absolutely. Although, despite that fact, there are many occurrences, like the CBC article, that showcase a horrible truth that mental illness is still not taken seriously.

Now is the time for action, and instead of a social media post, how about we stop shaming people for their troubles? How about reaching out to the people who need it? Maybe offering potential solutions like the numbers to help lines or referrals to therapists that would be affordable? Or perhaps offer to go out for coffee to talk to your peers? And how about we show patience and understanding to other people? Because at the end of the day, a person never knows who will be there for them when they are down.

If you were struggling today, do you really know who would lend an ear? And when I ask this, what I mean is, do you know how many people will be persistent enough to get you the information you need to move forward?

And if your answer is 'yes', remember what I'm about to tell you. Outside of my family, only TWO people reached out to me more than once in recent difficult times. Let that sink in.

As a final statement, I want to say that mental health is important and the initiative that Bell began six years ago is needed. The problem is that a lot of people jump on the social media band wagon so that they can look good for the one 'official' day in the month. So, my contribution to the campaign is this article by providing a reality check and toll free numbers and websites for those that need them. Do not let people suffer in silence and do not let them feel like they are alone.

National Alliance on Mental Illness: 1-800-950-6264 or text NAMI to 741741
National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: 1-800-273-8255
National Youth Crisis Hotline: 1-800-448-4663
Crisis Line in Canada: 1-866-996-0991



Article by Susan N.
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