Let's talk

It's Bell Let's Talk Day in Canada, so for a minute here, we're going to talk.

Mental illness is one of the most difficult conversations to have with others. It's hard to talk about, it's hard to write about, it's hard to address in a meaningful way. But that's why today is so important. These are conversations we should be having constantly, yet there's a stigma. Talking about mental illness might make you uncomfortable, but it's too important not to happen.

It's hard to express how important mental health is. This impacts every community, regardless of how wealthy or successful or outwardly okay everything might seem. In the hockey world, this is no different. Blackhawks fans know this far too well.

In December 2014, the Blackhawks family lost one of its most beloved members, equipment manager Clint Reif, to suicide. Nobody knew that while the team was battling on the each ice night, Reif was having an internal struggle of his own. His death came as a shock to so many people. I never met Clint, who seemed like an amazing person from all indications, but even with time, it can be a challenging thing to talk about.

Four months later, former player Daniel Carcillo opened up about mental illness and the death of Steve Montador, his best friend and a fellow ex-NHLer. Montador battled mental health issues and addiction for years. At age 35, he was found dead in his home. So Carcillo did something special and powerful: he sat in front of a camera to "try to explain why we can’t lose another Steve Montador." I gained an incredible amount of respect for Carcillo that day.

Those are just two examples of something that's widespread and pervasive, not just in the hockey world but in our society at large. Countless people deal with mental illness but don't want to or know how to talk about it. Creating an environment where that's not the case, where people want to talk about their problems as a means of addressing them, is what this is all about.

And today, we can all help a little extra and raise awareness

Bell will donate 5¢ more to mental health initiatives for every:

  • Text message sent*
  • Mobile & long distance call made*
  • Tweet using #BellLetsTalk
  • Share of the Facebook image

And there's even more you can do, and it's incredibly easy: listen. Listen to people when they want to talk about these things. Never just tell someone their problems are in their head. Maybe they are, but that doesn't make them -- and the anxiety, the suffering -- any less real. Empathy can go a long way and people battling mental health problems truly need it.

I also wanted to take a brief moment to open up about myself. I'm 24 years old and I've been dealing with anxiety issues for a long time. I've lost a high school friend to suicide. You're not supposed to go to funerals for friends when you're 21 years old. And these are things I admittedly don't discuss very often, not only on here but with literally anyone. It's just been part of my experience and it's something I try to work with everyday. Sometimes that's really all you can do. But you can also talk, and while I won't stay on my soap box too long, I just wanted to show that others aren't alone. Mental illness is not about weakness and never will be. It does not define me and it should not define anyone else.

So let's stay open about this stuff. Our community should be a welcoming place where we're comfortable discussing the challenges involved with mental health, especially in the hockey world. Maybe we can't fix anything overnight, but at least talking and raising awareness can get us a little bit closer to a better place.