By April Lawrence
BELLEVILLE – By tweeting, texting, calling and sharing on Facebook, Belleville residents and businesses helped the fourth annual Bell Let’s Talk Day donate over $5 million for mental-health programs across Canada.
The final count across Canada came to 109,451,718 tweets, Facebook shares, texts and calls by participants.
On Let’s Talk Day Bell donates five cents for every text and long-distance call sent by Bell customers, and every tweet (using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk or the Twitter name @Bell_LetsTalk) and Facebook share (of the Let’s Talk photo) by everyone, including people who are not Bell customers.
Four years ago, Bell made a commitment to invest $50 million of the company’s money in mental-health programs, said Mary Deacon, chair of the Bell Let’s Talk Mental Health Initiative.
“We recognized that mental health was a serious, underfunded, highly stigmatized yet very common health issue that did not get the kind of corporate support that many other causes do. So we wanted to bring attention to this issue and try to make a difference in this particularly serious yet often silent and invisible issue that most people don’t want to talk about,” Deacon told QNet News.
In the four years since the program’s start, Bell has donated close to $70 million to mental-health programs.
The program is focused on four areas, said Deacon: removing the stigma of mental illness, improving access to care, investing in research, and leading by example in workplace mental-health practices. The money is used to support organizations across the country, large and small, that deliver programs that make a difference in the lives of people in their communities, she said.
This year the national spokesperson for Let’s Talk Day, six-time Olympic medalist Clara Hughes, will also do Clara’s Big Ride for Bell Let’s Talk, starting March 14. The ride will take across the country, to all provinces and territories, covering over 12,000 kilometres in 110 days, and making 95 community stops. The goal is to raise awareness and help break the stigmas around mental illness.