Mirko Bibic is president and chief executive officer of BCE and Bell Canada
Today marks the 10th anniversary of Bell Let’s Talk Day. Looking back to its beginning, few could have anticipated how this uniquely Canadian initiative would so capture the attention of the nation and indeed the world.
Bell Let’s Talk is built around four mental-health action pillars: Anti-stigma, care and access, research, and workplace leadership. Each is critical to making real progress, but from the beginning we knew Bell would have the greatest immediate effect by putting our household name behind the fight against stigma around mental illness.
The need was clear: When we launched the initiative, fully two-thirds of people experiencing mental-health issues weren’t seeking treatment because of the stigma.
While our program works all year round to advance mental health, we launched it specifically to fight the stigma by bringing together Canadians from all walks of life willing to talk about the personal impact of mental illness on their lives.
Led by Olympian and founding spokesperson Clara Hughes, these leaders, celebrities and Canadians everywhere have shared their stories of struggle and recovery, demonstrating that mental illness is a pervasive health concern that could well affect any of us.
Today, 86 per cent of Canadians say they’re more aware of the impact of mental illness than they were just five years ago, and 88 per cent of those who struggle say they are more likely to seek help.
As a country, we have to work together to ensure those who struggle with mental illness can get the help they need.
This need for action is reflected in this year’s Bell Let’s Talk awareness campaign. The theme is Mental Health: Every Action Counts, focused on the actions large and small each of us can take to make a difference. Actions that help ensure those dealing with mental-health issues, freed from the stigma that may have kept them from seeking care in the past, can access the resources they need for treatment and recovery in the present.
There is incredible work being done by organizations across the country, many of them highlighted in our campaign. But even when services are available, they’re often fragmented and difficult to find.
Private funds can have a big impact. Bell Let’s Talk continues to announce support for more projects, including innovative new treatments at William Osler Health System in Ontario, upgrades to psychiatric departments across Quebec’s Saguenay region and funding for mental-health initiatives by Peguis First Nation in Manitoba.
Other private-sector sources have also stepped forward as the stigma continues to fade, and federal, provincial and territorial governments have made welcome increases in funding for mental health in recent years, including a $5-billion federal funding commitment through to 2027.
Despite this funding, much more is needed. And we all have our work cut out for us to fill the gap, because creating change must continue to be a collective effort. Mental health is a societal issue we – governments, corporations and the non-profit sector – must address together.
Now is the time to take the actions required to build on the positive momentum in awareness and acceptance that Canadians have created over the past decade. Whether it’s improving access at every level, enhancing the quality of care, funding new research or committing to building mentally healthy workplaces, Bell is committed to continuing to play a role.
We have often spoken of building a stigma-free Canada, and we’ve all made a lot of progress on that front. Now, let’s focus on making Canada a place where everyone can get the mental health care they need.