On Wednesday, January 25th, 2017, Bell Canada held their 7th national Bell Let’s Talk Day - the annual day that works towards ending the stigma against mental illness. On this day, Bell Canada donated 5 cents for every tweet and Instagram post using #BellLetsTalk as well as for every text message sent and mobile or long distance call made by Bell customers. Facebook views of the Bell Let’s Talk video and the Bell Let’s Talk geo-filter on Snapchat were also ways to garner donations.
Donations from Bell Let’s Talk Day are given to mental health initiatives and programs such as the Canadian Red Cross, the Children’s Aid Foundation and the Canadian Mental Health Association among many others. Last year, the donations totaled to 6.3 million dollars with a record 126 million messages. However, Bell believes that in addition to raising funds, raising awareness should be the focus of this day.
The Bell Let’s Talk Day is known for having strong support among celebrities. This year, celebrities including Howie Mandel, Marie-Soleil Dion, Serena Ryder, Michael Landsberg, Michel Mpambara, Stefie Shock, Mary Walsh and Étienne Boulay, shared their personal stories alongside longtime feature spokesperson, Clara Hughes. This year’s campaign also featured Bruno Guévremont, a Royal Canadian Navy veteran and captain for Team Canada at the 2016 Invictus Games.
While the Bell Let’s Talk Day has received overwhelming support, there are also mixed reviews from people who think that it is not enough to simply “talk” about Mental Health. Bell has been critiqued by some mental health organizations for not focusing on bigger issues like poverty and institutional violence in the workplace, which are both problems for many people who suffer from severe mental health conditions. The question of inclusion has also arisen, as many have criticized Bell for the lack of diversity among their spokespeople, who have success stories of full recovery and thus do not represent people who are currently battling their mental health struggles. Then, there are many who view Bell Let’s Talk Day as a strategic advertising campaign and question the effectiveness of a few retweets and hashtags.
Despite these criticisms, Bell Let’s Talk Day continues to be successful in that it encourages people to eliminate the stigma around mental health and sets new records each year. Last year, the #BellLetsTalk was the most used hashtag in Canada and there have been approximately 598 million interactions by Canadians on Bell Let’s Talk day over the past six years. Bell has set a goal of raising $100 million from Bell Let’s Talk by the end of 2020, and so far they have raised over $79 million.