Tonya Roberts

Bell Let’s Talk Day has quickly become a viral sensation.  What started as a Canadian campaign to raise money and awareness for mental health, has crossed the border snagging the attention of talk show sensation, Ellen Degeneres.  Her tweet, “For every retweet of this, Bell will donate 5 cents to mental health initiatives. Here’s my 5 cents. Where’s yours? #BellLetsTalk”, garnished a whopping 316,883 retweets.

But Ellen wasn’t the only celebrity heavyweight with their thumbs moving for the cause, LeVar Burton, Troy Baker, Wil Wheaton, Matthew Santoro, Kevin Smith, Fergie, James van Riemsdyk – among countless others – were all busy spreading the word.

With so many big names involved, it’s no wonder that this year’s Bell Let’s Talk Day managed to set a new fundraising record, with an incredible total of $6,919,199 raised.  But what are they really achieving in 24 hours?

138,383,995 interactions happened on January 31.  One 24 hour period filled with text messages and social media interactions with hashtags like #BellLetsTalk, #EndTheStigma, and #StartTheConversation.  Fantastic in theory, but again, is a 24-hour conversation really going to end the gross stigma surrounding mental health?

We both know it isn’t.

Grant Fitzpatrick, Education Facilitator for the Newfoundland and Labrador Division of Canadian Mental Health Association was on hand during Thursday’s Wellness Fair held in the Bruneau Centre for Research and Innovation.  We discussed at length some of the issues Canadians face on a daily basis, the stigma that still surrounds mental illness, and just how that stigma is preventing people from obtaining the assistance they need.

These things can’t be solved through random text messages saying nothing at all.  Nor can they be solved through tweeting about the weather, sports, or Hollywood gossip with a simple #BellLetsTalk stuck on the end.

Sure, the money raised is open for project applications that will no doubt be intended to help those in need of mental health assistance, but until people become more educated on mental health, including the myths surrounding it, support needed, and signs to look for – we’re not going to #EndTheStigma.