Monday September 01, 2014

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Let's Talk…all year round

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Bell Canada might have engineered the most brilliant one-day fundraiser in Canadian history.

January 28 was Bell's annual Let's Talk Day in support of mental health initiatives. On the social media front, each time that somebody used the Bell Let's Talk hashtag or shared the Let's Talk photo on Facebook, Bell donated five cents. And every time a Bell customer sent a text message or made a long distance phone call, the telecommunications giant donated five cents.

It might not seem like much at first glance. But there were more than 107 million of these communication actions, which raised $5 million for organizations that deal with mental health issues. And while $5 million is just a tiny fraction of the money needed by organizations involved with mental health, the volume of the donations will help.

It's an absolutely brilliant idea, the type of fundraiser that should serve as a case study in corporate philanthropy.

Bell gets the great publicity from doing something right. Their corporate name is attached to social media actions throughout the day. And their face of the campaign is famed Canadian athlete Clara Hughes – a multi-time Olympic medalist with an infectious smile who has also battled depression.

In the days leading up to January 28, there were many stories about brave people who have battled depression, anxiety and other mental health problems. There are few causes that galvanize the public like mental health, because it's an issue that's so far-reaching. Everybody knows somebody, and most know many people, who have battled mental health issues.

Not only will Let's Talk raise a lot of money for mental health initiatives, but it generates awareness and discussion, which might be even more valuable.

But the conversation can't end at 12:01 a.m. on January 29.

This is an issue that needs to be at the forefront throughout the year. Mental health takes a toll on our health care system, due to the money that is spent on treatments, counseling and so much more. Of greater significance, though, it can generate a heavy price on the families and friends of people with mental health challenges.

Some people with mental health disorders commit suicide. Others have to deal with a host of challenges on a daily basis. And many with mental health conditions suffer in silence, because they don't feel that they have anyone they can speak with, or because they're worried about the associated stigma.

The support shown for Let's Talk is evidence that there are people out there who are willing to speak about their condition, willing to listen to the struggles of others, and willing to offer love, acceptance and support.

Hopefully, those who supported Let's Talk didn't just do it because of a bandwagon effect.

We can't tell people to merely "suck it up" anymore.

For Let's Talk Day to be truly effective, it needs to spill over to every day of the year.


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