For mental health advocates, #BellLetsTalk is every day

#BellLetsTalk is one of my favourite days of the year. 

I get genuinely excited, happy, and inspired by all of the conversation happening around mental health. People sharing their stories for the first time, publicly. Others reaching out for help. More, choosing to donate their own money, rather than relying on Bell. There is so much good in this day, it's beyond the measure of "impressions". 

But it's also controversial - more and more so each year. 

Personally, I wish there was more people of colour included in the #BellLetsTalk campaign. I wish there was more body diversity in their campaign. I wish the focus of the campaign wasn't so heavily on depression and anxiety (the "easy" mental health issues to talk about); I wish more disorders and challenges (like eating disorders and self-harm) had a bigger place in it all. 

Yes, at the end of the day, Bell is a corporation. Yes, this is a PR initiative. Does that make it wrong? Does the fact that Bell profits from making mental health their rallying cause a negative thing? I'm not so sure. Obviously, I speak from the perspective of someone who started a social enterprise that's mission is to end the stigma around mental health. I believe that business can do good. I think that intentions matter more than we give credit for, and that we live in a world where no matter what you do, there will be criticisms. But I think, all in all, #BellLetsTalk is incredibly important and starts millions of conversations around a stigmatized topic that quite frankly, wouldn't be happening otherwise (not to mention millions of dollars in funding towards community mental health initiatives across Canada). 

#BellLetsTalk day is only one, small piece of a much larger puzzle

For mental health advocates, #BellLetsTalk day is basically everyday. The conversations, the stories, the involvement. This is part of our daily lives - at times, it's overwhelming and exhausting, other days it's completely enlightening and I wouldn't trade it for anything else.

Once this day ends, it's easy to slump back into stigma. 

To be quiet again, maybe forget about the issue completely. So while I have you here, my message is this: 

I hope you feel inspired by today to continue talking about mental health, and turn these conversations into action. The real change comes from what we do the other 364 days of the year. Don't let the conversations die down tomorrow, or in a week from now. This is just the beginning. 365 days matter in ending the stigma. 

Kayley Reed