Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day, which is great! The more attention we can bring to the importance of good mental health, the more opportunities we have to decrease the stigma surrounding mental illness, the more money we can raise for research and initiatives – it all adds up to a better world. However, as someone who lives with mental illness and has to put in extra effort to maintain good mental health on a day to day basis, I often find initiatives like this frustrating and disappointing as they are an easy bandwagon to jump on for good publicity and to feel good about oneself. It’s easy for workplaces to shout from the rooftops about the programs they’ve put into place to improve employee mental health, while the workers sit silently because the programs are not actually helpful and the employer has otherwise not once shown true interest in their wellbeing. It’s easy for people to post statuses today about being “here for you, no matter what!”, and then become absent “friends” the rest of the year. It’s easy today to remember to check in on friends and family members who have been struggling, but way more difficult as the year drags on.
Supporting mental health, and more importantly, supporting someone who struggles with their mental health, is so much more than a promotional campaign and requires much, much more than a catchy hashtag. And so, amidst all the talk, I also hope that Bell’s Let’s Talk Day can become an opportunity for everyone to reexamine how they walk the walk the rest of the year. I’m sure that everyone has their own definitions of this, based on their needs, but here’s what it means to me.
Walking the walk means being there when things get messy and difficult.
It means being there when it is inconvenient, when you’d rather be doing anything else.
Walking the walk means following through on offers to “be there”.
It means showing up, even when you’re not sure what to do or say.
Walking the walk means employers and agencies review the support programs they’ve put into place to ensure they are truly effective.
It means going beyond visuals and feel-good initiatives and having deep, uncomfortable talks about things that actually need to change.
Walking the walk means checking in with friends and loved ones both when they’re going through particularly rough patches and when things “seem okay” or when they “should be better by now”.
It means proving to others that you are someone who can be trusted, by the way you act day to day.
And so today, as we talk openly about mental health, I encourage you to also reexamine how you’re also walking the walk. We will never do it perfectly; we will always say awkward things (life is messy!), we will always have to apologize for mistakes made and unthoughtful comments spoken (we are human, after all!)…but if we can really and truly show up, today and everyday, that is when initiatives like Bell’s Let’s Talk Day will be more than simple talk.