Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day, an annual awareness campaign that strives to shine a light on mental health in Canada. This year’s theme is “Let’s change this”, which underscores the ways in which we can all fight the stigma surrounding mental illness, shift attitudes, and encourage meaningful action to create positive change.
As the pandemic continues to highlight the importance of mental health as an integral component of health, we are seeing significant progress in the ways Canadians are engaging in compassionate conversations about mental health.
Despite these gains, stigma continues to cast a shadow over mental health and substance use by preventing people from accessing the care they need. Stigma can also manifest at a more structural level-including within the health system-where it can be a major barrier to treatment and lead to poorer quality care for people living with mental illness.
Today, an estimated 1 in 2 people who need help for mental health challenges are not getting the help they need. What’s more, every day in Canada, an average of 12 people die by suicide, and more than 200 people attempt suicide. The toxic drug and overdose crisis also continues to take a tragic toll on our communities. Since 2016, more than 32,000 people have died of an apparent opioid-related overdose in Canada, with 3,556 people dying from an overdose between January and June 2022 – an average of 20 deaths per day. These numbers are not just statistics, they are beloved children, parents, friends, neighbors and colleagues.
Although much work remains to put an end to these worrying trends, we also have a unique opportunity to shape a future in which all Canadians have the mental health literacy needed to take better care of ourselves and our communities. We can achieve this by listening without judgement when someone reaches out, engaging in more conversations about mental illness to counter stigma, and learning how to support others with their mental health or substance use.
You can check out Jack.org’s Be There Certificate as a great place to start or visit mentalhealthliteracy.org to enrich your own understanding of mental health, mental illness and how our brains function.
If you’re struggling, the Wellness Together Canada (WTC) portal is a great on-line resource that provides access to free mental health and substance use supports, online, by phone or text 24/7. WTC offers services in both official languages, and phone-counselling sessions are available in 200 languages and dialects through instantaneous interpretation. PocketWell, WTC’s free companion app, provides the same resources in a convenient format and includes an additional self-assessment tool and tracker that monitors mood and mental well-being.
Indigenous Peoples who need urgent, culturally-sensitive support, crisis intervention, or referrals to community-based services can access experienced counsellors through the Hope for Wellness Help Line at 1-855-242-3310 or through their website.
Today and every day, let’s keep the conversation going around mental health, continue fighting stigma, and create positive change for all of us. Let’s Change This!
The Honourable Carolyn Bennett, P.C., M.P.