Ending the Stigma


Bell Let’s Talk Day sparks more conversation for the ninth year

After 2019’s Bell Let’s Talk Day, Bell reported a record 145 442 699 interactions, translating into $7 272 134.95 in donations towards mental health initiatives across Canada. This will be the ninth year that Bell commits more money to mental health, and initiates more conversation to create a Canada that is stigma-free.

Stigma, according to the Oxford Dictionary is “a mark of disgrace associated with a particular circumstance, quality, or person.” To be more general, stigma is a negative stereotype. With regards to mental health, the biggest barrier between those suffering from problems or illnesses and recovery is the stigma they face.

About one fifth of Canadians will experience a mental health problem or illness in any given year, yet according to the Mental Health Commission of Canada, “despite how common it is, mental illness continues to be met with widespread stigma: in hospitals, workplaces, and schools; in rural and urban communities; even among close friends and families.”

Bell Canada notes the 5 simple ways to end the stigma and start a conversation. It is important to note mental health is an extremely complex matter that is unique to each and every person. Bell’s five points are aimed at ending stigma, and not intending to take authority on fixing mental illnesses. The five points are as follows:

Language Matters. Words make a difference. Worlds help, but they can also hurt. We must make a conscientious effort to use the right language with others. For example, one who suffers from a mental illness is not “crazy.”

Educate Yourself. This is extremely important. Mental health is a concept that continually gets researched and studied, and our understanding of it is constantly evolving. Having the right tools and knowing the right language makes a massive difference. Supporting those experiencing mental illnesses can also be ameliorated by knowing how to correctly speak and address their struggles.

Be Kind. Kindness is the most simple and effective way to make a difference in the world. Caring for others in gestures big and small can remind them of their worth and remind them that you are there for them. By offering to speak to someone over coffee, or simply passing a smile, you could unknowingly turn someone’s whole day around.

Listen and Ask. Mental illness is a very common form of human pain and suffering. Being a good listener and asking how you can help or simply being there for people you care about can be an essential step in their recovery.

Talk About It. Breaking the silence is everything Bell set out to do when it began the Bell Let’s Talk initiative. According to Bell’s statistics, two out of three people suffer in silence in fear of judgement, rejection, or burdening others. Being open to a conversation and sparking conversation helps to eliminate the stigma.

Here at StFX there are many events and groups that aim to end the stigma during Bell Let’s Talk and throughout the entire year. During the week of January 28 to February 1, StFX Athletics dedicated their home games to mental health awareness, with athletes sporting the BellLet’sTalk blue toques, and holding posters to support the conversation. The hashtag #oneteamformentalhealth was used prominently on social media platforms such as Instagram and Twitter. The Student Athlete Mental Health Initiative (SAMHI) was also present throughout the week, hosting events like a coffee house at local business, Tall & Small, Photo Booths at sporting events, and mindfulness and yoga sessions!

Residence Life also hosted a number of events throughout residences. On January 29, the Residence Life team also held a Health Promotions booth in the Student Union Building, where they distributed blue BellLet’sTalk Toques and other helpful resources.

On January 30, Flourish @ X, a program dedicated to students making the best of their university experience, promoted Bell Let’s Talk on its Facebook page, stating “Mental Health is something that should be nourished like physical health and no one should suffer in silence.”

In our small StFX and Antigonish communities, in our country we’re proud to call home, and across the world, mental health is something we must all be mindful of. Mental illness affects many, and eliminating the stigma will make a massive difference for everyone. Taking actions and making a difference, big or small, is what is needed to make progress.