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industry & Markets
Leaving Stigma in the Before Times
Starting in 2010, Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign sought to raise awareness of, and destigmatize mental health issues. Their annual #BellLetsTalk campaign has been very successful, often becoming the number one trending topic on social media and ultimately becoming the most used hashtag in Canada in 2018. Though Bell reportedly chose mental health as their cause because it was somewhat uncharted territory for corporate sponsorship, the success of the campaign is a testament to the public’s support in removing the shame from this all-too-common issue. Bell’s campaign often cited the statistic that one in five Canadians will suffer from mental illness at some point in their life. While Bell’s efforts influenced Canadian discourse over the past decade, nothing could compare to the once-in-a-lifetime experience of a global pandemic. What had been viewed as an invisible epidemic in the very recent past has now taken center stage. Suddenly, most people in the world felt a negative impact on their mental health. We were all stuck at home, unable to live our lives as normal, living under the threat of a deadly disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducted a survey last June reporting that over 40% of adults were dealing with a mental health issue—doubling the popular one in five statistic.
Our shared experience has elevated mental health to a far more mainstream level. Popular magazines have featured stories on mental health including Time Magazine’s Naomi Osaka cover story on how she made mental health her priority. In comedy, Bo Burnham’s newest special Inside addresses the toll pandemic isolation took on his state-of-mind. And a bevy of mental health podcasts have cropped up in the past year and a half.
While art and culture have contributed to the discussion, conversations are taking place everywhere. Coping strategies have become fodder for small talk, alongside the weather and recent Netflix binges. An early pandemic trend had people reaching out to friends and family they’d lost touch with to check in on how they’re holding up.
This movement in the cultural realm extends far beyond anecdotal personal experience to have measurable consequences in the economy. Recognizing the current need, many employers have expanded their health and benefits coverage to include mental health. Reports from mental health professions have indicated a surge in caseloads and a reduction in cancellations. And teletherapy apps like TalkSpace and BetterHelp have seen significant increases in downloads.
Mental health entering the realm of current events could be one of the enduring silver linings of the pandemic. This increased attention and shared experience has brought about a newfound empathy. We’ve come a long way since the first #BellLetsTalk Day. We’re not automatons. We require more than just physical maintenance. Ironically, it took a bug in the system for us to realize it.
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