Are there parallels we can draw from the#MeToo and #TimesUp movements? These same hashtags could be used to draw attention to Mental Health. I'm sure we can all say #MeToo to the question, "Have you ever suffered from mental health?" And of those who suffer from mental illness, who wouldn't say "#TimesUp"? The time is up for discrimination against those with mental health issues, the time is up for hiding at home feeling like a failure because you couldn't drag yourself out of bed because of a heightened state of anxiety, the time is up for being abused and bullied at school or at work because people see you as 'different', and the time is up for silence. It IS time to talk!
And while Bell Let's Talk Day is a super initiative, is it enough to just talk about Mental Health once a year? Hell no, it should be an everyday conversation. We have to change society's mindset, our mindset, and that takes time which is why we need to talk about it now, and every day. For example, some common exchanges should be like this:
You to your boss: "Can we change the time of the meeting? I can feel a bipolar episode coming on and I need to get to the doctor asap"
Your boss to you: "Sure, that's no problem; I'll push the date back. Give me an update when you have time and we can talk through what else you need, I here to help you"
You to a friend "I can't deal with everything on my plate -- I'm really overwhelmed and it is getting to me"
Your friend to you: "I can see you are upset, I'm going stay with you. Let's talk more and see if we can find a way to get you through it. Plus we know there is professional help out there if you need it, so you are not alone"
We have legislation in place that protects human rights and punishes those who discriminate both for the workplace and for public services but it is our everyday actions that need to be called out. It is our interactions, biases and perceptions we need to correct. Can we get celebrities to talk more freely about their struggles? Can we come up with a 'catchy' phrase in 3 words or less that would propel a 'movement'? We need the people in power to demonstrate the importance of talking about mental health, that it is OK to have mental illness, and that even with a Mental Illness, you can still be a productive member of society and lead a fulfilling life. It is not shameful or weak, it's the beautiful DNA that no-one else shares -- it's YOU.
We stopped smoking in bars and restaurants, we upped the ante when it comes to drinking and driving, and we are moving forward on the issue of Workplace Sexual Harassment thanks to a bunch of Hollywood celebs. We've got this, we can change the world, bit by bit, we can be that change, just by talking, by caring about people, and yes, even by hashtags.