Growing up, Robin Williams was one of my childhood icons. I – like thousands of children – enjoyed his performances in films such as Aladdin, Jumanji and Night at the Museum. At a support group for children with divorced parents I attended in elementary school we watched Mrs. Doubtfire on movie night and it quickly became a favorite.
When the headlines read; “ROBIN WILLIAMS COMMITS SUICIDE AGE 63” I was shocked. It seemed impossible to me that a man who had provided laughs for generations would be so depressed as to take his own life.
His death sparked a conversation – one that I personally am grateful for. As someone who has suffered from depression in the past, I understand the hopelessness and despair it brings. As someone who has lived through it, I understand how fortunate I am. Mental Illness affects 1 in 5 Canadians – chances are you know someone who has been affected by it. It accounts for 24% of all deaths among 15-24 year olds in Canada. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, the mortality rate due to suicide for men is four times the rate among women. A global discussion regarding mental health must happen – the lives of people we love depend on it.
The use of hashtags on social media has become a common tool used to unite people devoted to the same cause. Such is the case of #BellLetsTalk – a hashtag sponsored by Bell Media’s charitable program, which is devoted to reducing the stigma against those who suffer from mental illness. The hashtag was tweeted, shared and posted approximately 120 million times – raising over 6 million dollars.
My hope is that if initiatives like this continue to exist offensive stereotypes (for example; people with depression just want attention) will fade into oblivion.
Let’s keep the discussion moving,
Wow – 6 million dollars?! That is incredible. I love Bell’s #BellLetsTalk initiative because it really does start conversations which would not otherwise occur. A lot of people who used the hashtag on social media also included pictures and infographics which gave more information about mental health, again furthering the conversation.
I’m glad you touched on the point of offensive stereotypes. There is a horrible stigma about mental illnesses and they are so misunderstood. I frequently hear people use mental illnesses as adjectives and this needs to stop. It actually happened to me, twice within the span of a few minutes.
I was decorating for an event, and one of my friends said, “OCD much?” to me because I was focussed on ensuring a certain decoration was perfectly centered on the wall. As calmly as I could, I explained that mental illnesses were real things that people suffered from and they were not adjectives to make jokes with. A few minutes later, the same comment was made to me and I had the same response.
Oftentimes, people don’t realize that what they are saying is offensive. I know that if my two friends had fully understood that what they said was offensive then they wouldn’t have said it. The problem is, they didn’t fully understood before they said it. The stigma of mental illnesses definitely is changing, and Bell’s initiatives a big part of that.
#BellLetsTalk is just one day, but it is one day and millions of shares and millions of dollars. It is one day, but it is awareness and funds to make a difference for many more days to come. Here’s to the continued conversation!