Athletes join in on discussion to end stigma

Bell Let’s Talk Day continues to inspire discussions regarding mental health across Canada

Mental health is relevant to all of us. It refers to our thoughts, feelings, behaviours and, like physical health, is an integral component of our wellbeing. The words “mental health” are often only used to refer to the one in five people who experience mental illness, but in reality, five in five people have mental health. This means that conversations surrounding mental health are pertinent to everyone.

In 2010, Bell Let’s Talk started an important conversation about mental health in Canada. This initiative has contributed to growth in access to mental health resources and in research conducted at institutions and organizations that support mental health. To date, Bell has donated over $86 million to mental health programs across Canada.

Last Wednesday, Jan. 31, was Bell Let’s Talk Day. On that day, Bell donated to mental health initiatives in Canada by contributing five cents for every eligible text, tweet, social media video view and use of their Facebook frame or Snapchat filter. The day promoted awareness and brought attention, bringing us closer to a stigma-free Canada.

Mount Allison has been involved with Bell Let’s Talk for a number of years and continues to help end the stigma surrounding mental illness. This past Sunday, Bell Let’s Talk Day was recognized at the Mounties’ volleyball, basketball and hockey games. Athletes wore blue Bell Let’s Talk hats and a banner was signed by athletes, fans and students.

The Student-Athlete Mental Health Initiative (SAMHI) is a new group on campus that includes Mt. A athletes who are hoping to continue this important conversation beyond Bell Let’s Talk Day. Fourth-year Mt. A students, Erin Steeves and Becky Miller, who are part of SAMHI, helped organize the Bell Let’s Talk games this past weekend.

Steeves explained SAMHI is an initiative that “looks to support and provide resources regarding mental health to student-athletes and coaches at our university.”

Miller added, “Groups like Jack.org and Change Your Mind have done an amazing job of promoting mental health and tackling the stigma surrounding mental illness at Mount Allison. It is our hope that SAMHI can help to continue these efforts.”

Steeves remarked that she hopes that “we, as a student body, can continue to have open dialogue about the importance of mental health.”

Mental illnesses are often misunderstood and sometimes feared. However, learning  and understanding more about mental illness can reduce many uncertainties. The Canadian Mental Health Association (CMHA) provides a number of reliable and helpful resources about mental illness on its website. CMHA says that mental health is about finding “a balance in all aspects of your life: social, physical, spiritual, economic and mental.” This balance will be unique to you and the challenge will be found in maintaining the balance.

If you or someone you know is struggling with a mental illness, it is important to seek help as soon as possible. Chimo Helpline (1-800-667-5005) is a toll-free crisis line that is available 24/7 and can provide crisis intervention, resources and help with issues including suicidal thoughts, emotional distress, employment, accommodations, general information and loneliness. If you are in crisis, go to the hospital or call 911 immediately.

Bell Let’s Talk has helped us engage in open discussion about mental illness and instilled a new hope for those who struggle with their mental health. It is our job to now continue this conversation and educate ourselves. Be kind, listen, ask questions and talk about it!

Kathleen Morrison