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Bell Let’s Talk Day, with Clara Hughes and Seamus O’Regan

Bell Let’s Talk Day, with Clara Hughes and Seamus O’Regan

Many people living with a mental illness report that stigma and discrimination causes them more suffering than the illness itself. As a result, two thirds of those suffering from mental illness are too afraid to seek the help that they need. Mental illness affects people of all ages and from all walks of life. Most individuals find ways to live with their illnesses but how they are treated by others often proves to be more of a challenge than the illness itself. Stigma and discrimination are key barriers that stop people from seeking help.

Speakers’ Spotlight is proud of Olympic Champion Clara Hughes and Journalist Seamus O’Regan for helping to draw attention to Bell Let’s Talk Day. Today, Bell will contribute $.05 to mental health related initiatives for every text message sent, mobile call and long distance call made by Bell and Bell Aliant customers, and every Tweet using the hashtag #BellLetsTalk.

In the article below, Seamus speaks with GridTO about being apart of the campaign*:

Your face is on billboards all over the city to promote Bell’s “Let’s Talk” campaign. How does that feel?

Oh, god. It’s terrific just because Bell’s done a superb job on this. People are talking about it, which is the entire point. I get people posting photos of the poster on Twitter. It’s not just in Toronto; it’s all over the country.

Okay, let’s talk about the campaign.

Bell first asked me to get involved in 2013, while I was still working at Canada AM. Over the years, I had seen how people were becoming more [courageous] when talking about mental health. Afghanistan really changed everything. Soldiers suffering from PTSD spoke so openly and bravely about their experiences. I believe the “Let’s Talk” campaign has raised more than $62 million so far, and that’s just the money. The other point is to educate and raise awareness. Mental illness is so pervasive. One in four Canadians is affected by it in some way. A lot of people out there aren’t diagnosed and may be fearful of what they have. It might be minor, it might major. Either way, a minor illness still deserves to be treated. You still go to a doctor. You still figure it out.

You wouldn’t tell someone not to worry about just a little bit of cancer.

Yeah, exactly.

There are a lot of worthy causes out there. Do you have a personal connection to mental health?

When I first got together with Bell, they asked if I or anyone in my family suffered from a condition. I said no. I felt I could fit into the campaign because of how it focuses on communication. As someone who’s listened and talked to thousands of people over my career in journalism, the importance of open and honest dialogue really spoke to me. Then, over the course of the past year, with job changes and so much going on, I went into depression.

Oh, I didn’t realize. I’m sorry to hear that.

No, no. It’s fine.

It’s great that you’re talking about it.

That’s the point. I am lucky that in my case it’s nothing chronic. I went through what a lot of people go through when they’re in-between jobs or in transition. Sometimes it just gets a little overwhelming. I went to CAMH and saw professionals there. They provided me with treatment—I’m feeling better and it’s great. Now, at least I feel like I’ve earned my place on that billboard.

*edited from a longer interview