Bell has launched a campaign to encourage discussion of mental health issues in the lead-up to its national “Let’s Talk Day” on February 8.
Bell introduced the mental health initiative in 2011, committing to spend $50 million over five years in a bid to change Canadians’ attitudes on the subject.
Besides deflating the stigma around mental health, the campaign also focuses on improving care and access, stimulating research and encouraging best practices in the workplace.
“At least 1 in 5 Canadians will suffer from mental illness in their lifetimes, but the unfortunate reality is that most won’t seek treatment because of the continuing stigma around the disease. Bell Let’s Talk Day sends the message to those who struggle with mental illness that Canadians want to listen and we want to help,” Bell president and CEO George Cope said in a statement released to coincide with the 2012 campaign kickoff.
Olympian Clara Hughes, who has been working to get Canadians talking since being named national spokesperson last year, says she’s been encouraged by the impact so far.
“Canadians really stepped up to talk about mental health on last year’s very successful Bell Let’s Talk Day, and the conversation has only continued to grow since then,” Hughes said in a statement.
For this year’s campaign, the 6-time Olympic medalist and longtime sufferer of depression is joined by a pair of Quebec spokespeople: author, composer and performer Stefie Shock, and actor-comedian Michel Mpambara.
All three intend to share their own challenges of mental illness in the countdown to the culmination of the campaign on February 8. That’s when Bell will donate 5 cents to programs dedicated to mental health, for every text and long distance call made by it customers across Canada.
Last year, more than 66 million texts and phonecalls translated into more than $3.3 million being added to the Let’s Talk campaign coffers.
This year the company hopes to top that total by adding the popular Twitter service into the mix. For every retweet of the Bell Let’s Talk Day message posted by @Bell_LetsTalk that day, the company will also donate five cents.
As the campaign kicks off, mental health-focused local organizations are also invited to apply for grants from the Bell Community Fund 2012, 1 $1 million program aimed at helping groups that are fighting stigma and increasing access to care.
“Mental illness is clearly one of the most pervasive yet underfunded health challenges facing Canadians today, touching each of us directly in some way and costing our economy at least $51 billion each year in lost productivity and opportunity,” Bell Let’s Talk chair Mary Deacon said in a statement.
“We’re excited to build on all that Bell Let’s Talk has accomplished in its first year with further intensive investment in the people and programs that are making a real difference in moving Canadian mental health forward.”
The Bell brand, which includes a range of communications and media businesses including CTV, is wholly owned by BCE Inc.