Wednesday, 8 February 2012

Mental illness: What I'd like to talk about if I had a Bell phone

Seven years ago, when I worked in the mental health field, mental illness was still pretty shameful.

People hid their conditions to save their jobs. Families crumbled under the weight of alcohol and drug addictions. Seniors were locked away with dementia.

We knew there were plenty of challenges ahead of us. Government hearings led by Senators Michael Kirby and Wilbert Keon heard from psychiatrists, social workers, psychologists and ordinary folk about how mental illness was ruining lives and costing Canadian business millions of dollars in lost productivity.

Then, under the Martin government, an announcement came that the government had heard our cry, and was establishing a Mental Health Commission to look at ways to bring mental illness "out of the shadows". That was just before the election but the Harper government later embraced the idea and appointed Kirby as the commission's first head. Doctors clamored to get on board the mental illness gravy train. Corporations lined up to get on board.

Why not? AIDS had become passe. Breast cancer was an overcrowded advertising marketplace. Literacy was dull as dishwater.

So a few big companies decided they could make their economic nut over society's nuts.

Unlike the previous causes, mental illness could come in attractive packages. Star athletes came forward. A former Canadian first lady realized she could make thousands of dollars in speaker fees. Big companies could get together for photo ops with poor sufferers.

All of a sudden, mental illness was good for the bottom line.

Today is Bell Canada's "Let's Talk" campaign. It's all over the airwaves and newspapers owned by Bell Media.

Mental illness awareness is in the crisp Ottawa air.

There's no escaping it.

Let's be clear. It's not about you, the bipolar or me, the anxiety sufferer. We still can't get help with our problems. There's nothing in the Wizard's bag for us except some pretty little pills dispensed by over-rich pharmaceutical salesmen.

The whole "Let's Talk" campaign is about you spending money texting and talking on the phone. Just minutes before I began writing this, I saw a Bell ad saying the company would donate to mental health organizations five cents for every text or long distance call.

Five cents!


How much, overall, was Bell making on those calls and texts?


Not only that, but have you noticed that I, the Fido customer or my son Nick, the Rogers customer, are not being asked to talk about our issues or contribute one red cent to mental health? To do so, we would have to switch to Bell Canada.

This kind of bald-faced corporate promotion is not about mental illness.

It's a corporate marketing strategy.

True, mental health organizations will get some moolah.

And Bell subscribers can be heroes for just one day.

Me, I still have anxiety and can't find help for it.

That's what I'd like to talk about if I had a Bell phone.

1 comment:

  1. I enjoy your wit immensely. I have clinical depression, I don't use Bell either. Guess we are both doomed to gloom. Pretty sure they launched Let's Talk (insert sarcastic font here) without ever thinking they'd make cent. (did I say that out loud???)