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DJNO Youth Advisory Council on Bell Let’s Talk Day

As reported by Constanza Farias


Youth Advisory Council Reflections on Bell Let’s Talk Day

As reported by Constanza Farias

A simple question this morning by organizer Sarah Jama to our group chat prompted us to want to share our take on Bell’s Let’s Talk Day with you.


“How are we feeling about this day”? She asked. Turns out nobody was particularly impressed with this day or Bell’s corporate monopoly over mental health conversations.

Miche Xue brings up the mental health crisis in our prisons and how Bell actually charges prisoners extra for phone calls. Even when it’s a well established fact that there is a major problem with people with mental illness being over-represented in the criminal justice system, something widely referred to as the ‘criminalisation of the mentally ill’. Mental illness rates are about 4 to 7 times more common in prison than in the community . Despite this Bell still goes ahead and chooses to profit from this.


At this point , I join the conversation and share that my biggest issue with Bell Let’s Talk Day is that it’s so reductionist and non-intersectional.


Mental health is complex and simply talking about with a nationwide campaign is but a fraction of what improving mental health requires. Encouraging the propagation of charming sentiments along the lines of “DM me if you ever need to talk” or “my door is always open” followed by and cue key phrase “even if we don’t talk” , that is simply not working. In reality these are empty promises because wellbeing and mental health isn’t built over the span of one day, and specially in a crisis having supportive and safe relationships that are part of your life constantly is what we all need to aim for. This means re-creating community so that isolation isn’t so widespread and wellbeing is prioritized and normalized and for folx dealing with different mental health struggles it means knowing that the messy and scary parts of it won't be ignored and strategically avoided.


It’s not long before more team members join the conversation. Offering to research different resources ( linked below) brought Caspian Oosterhof to another important point of discussion about Bell’s Let’s Talk Day. The words “surveillance capitalism” popped up on my screen. This is something I had personally not give a lot of thought to and it definitely deserves more attention. Basically, it’s the use of individual’s personal information by companies via technology meant to curate data for psychological advertisement by companies and corporations. In many ways we are the first generation to have to deal with the complexity of privacy, data, and technology so it’s something we all need to keep in mind and until proven safe, be careful about.


Being on the youth committee of the Disability Justice Network of Ontario, we offer a personal first-hand view of the impact of intersectional mental health awareness” and we are committed to making things change so that the 1.2 million children currently affected by mental illness grow up in a world that is truly welcoming and safe.


These questions represent our overall issues overall with Bell’s Let’s Talk Day, this we know is echoed across out community as well

1. Is a campaign to reduce stigma really the best approach? Or does it perpetuate it? Maybe better consultation on the process is needed.

2. Why be so reductionist and non-intersectional? Perhaps shifting the focus from the individual to society could actually help things!

3. Why emphasize certain mental illness while ignoring many others? Jeez, it’s not only depression you know, there are mood disorders too and psychosis and not everything fits a neat little box.

4. Why capitalize off of mental health ? Let’s be careful with how data is use, oh and also don't charge prisoners extra.

4. Why are Bell’s own employees mental health and wellness not prioritized? I mean sale tactics with pressure so high that employees are vomiting and collectively being affected is not congruent with a company claiming to care about mental health.


The shift that needs to happen involves:

1. Differentiate between short term and long term solutions and efforts.

2. Differentiate between individual , community, and structural factors that are at play .


What I really took away from today, was the way we asked each other if we could work on this today and what we needed. We opened a new group chat and collaborated well into the afternoon. We recognized our struggles as individuals and as a group and didn't take anything for granted. Today was a good day and that gives me hope that when we take care of each other mental health stops being as elusive as it once was.


Resource List, Our Picks

Comprehensive lists of DIY ways to get your self care in; showcases zines and independently published works from people who struggle with their mental health in different ways. Taking the professionalism out of mental health, these zines aim to “fill the therapy gap” and to give those with mental illnesses a chance to be seen, heard, and supported. We also included a resource on crisis support and a youth centered space offering programming and support in Toronto.

1. Dazed

The mental health zines filling the gap that therapy doesn’t. From empathetic illustrations to helpful tips – here is a definitive list of the best DIY resources for self-care, support and intersectional debate. For more visit http://www.dazeddigital.com/artsandculture/article/32004/1/the-mental-health-zines-filling-the-gap-that-therapy-doesn-t

2. Bitch Media

Cut & Paste: Zines About Mental Health and Self Care

Stressed? Anxious? Depressed? Here are some smart, creative, feminist zines about taking care of yourself. For more visit https://www.bitchmedia.org/article/cut-paste-zines-about-mental-health-and-self-care

3. Mental Health Support

Resources for crisis support compiled by the Government of Canada. For more information visit https://www.canada.ca/en/public-health/services/mental-health-services/mental-health-get-help.html

4. Stella’s Place

A place where youth are in control of their mental health and work collaborative, different programs are offered both via their app and in their Toronto space. For more information visit https://stellasplace.ca/

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