We shouldn’t need #BellLetsTalk, but we do, so let’s talk

It says something about where our society is at that we need a corporate hashtag to encourage people to open up about mental illness. I’m grateful for Bell Let’s Talk day and what it represents: the openness, generosity, and acceptance of so many people put on display to show those who feel alone that they’re not.

But when you’re fighting with something like depression or anxiety, a corporate hashtag does little to get you out of bed. It doesn’t whisper in your ear that things are going to be alright when your brain starts taking you places you know you’re not supposed to go. It doesn’t drag you away from a Google search bar where you can ask the internet questions nobody should find the answers to.

I’ve thought a lot about depression and anxiety over the years because I’m pretty sure I have some form of them. But it’s kinda like what Paul Ranger said in the recent TSN piece that went up, which I highly recommend: “You can only share this stuff with people you trust. Truly.”

And the reality is that, for all of the appreciation that I have for the community I’m a part of, I don’t really know most of you. And I don’t really trust any of you. My inner circle is much smaller than that.

So while I choose to open up in this way, to shine a greater light on problems that affect so many people, I also recognize how far this comes short. How badly our society needs a greater reckoning with mental illness, one that starts with days like Bell Let’s Talk but needs to grow into something bigger. This needs to be 365 days a year. The fight against depression or anxiety, for those who live it, is often a constant battle. One day of uplifting talk is like spending 10 minutes on the treadmill to lose 50 pounds.

Ideally, we wouldn’t need a day like Bell Let’s Talk, which is part public service, part corporate marketing. It wouldn’t or shouldn’t be embarrassing to go to the front of a room, break down in tears, and explain what you’re feeling. It shouldn’t be viewed shamefully as a loss of worker productivity, as if those man hours are more important than a person’s mental and physical well-being. These are still problems for so many people, though, because the drive for success means that opening up as vulnerable leaves you to be eaten by the wolves. It becomes easier to eat yourself up from the inside out.

But days like today, they’re a start. Bell will donate a ton of money to research and awareness as a result of people texting, tweeting, and watching videos like the one below.

That’s good!

And just because one prefer not to detail their challenges with mental illness in this space doesn’t mean the process of opening up isn’t important. The timing and ways in which that happens are different for everyone.

We can’t bring back those who we’ve lost, those who didn’t get the help they needed in time, but stories like Paul Ranger’s show the importance of being proactive with mental health. He’s told the story many of us want to tell: I had mental illness, I stood up to it, and I learned to control it.

I feel incredibly grateful that places like Vox Media, and audiences like the one here at Second City Hockey, are willing to encourage this kind of content. They provide useful services even to part-time employees like myself, which I’ve never used but recognize the value in. Every company should be providing its employees with anonymous mental health services if they’re interested.

So let’s keep talking, until the day where we don’t need a hashtag anymore and this is just part of the daily conversation. The world will be a better, happier place for it.

Oh, also, go Blackhawks.