Mary Anne Radmacher
Bell Let's Talk DayPosted January 23, 2017 by Tresa Clemmensen M.SC. CCC
On January 25 it is the official Bell Let’s Talk day! Bell is committed to moving mental health forward in Canada by promoting awareness. On January 25th, Bell will donate 5 cents every time you talk, text and join in on social media to mental health initiatives, so please join in.
Bell focuses on 4 key pillars in their efforts to increase awareness and action. These include fighting the stigma, improving access to care, supporting world-class research, and leading by example in workplace mental health. More information on each of these as well as The Bell Let’s Talk Toolkit can be found on their website at letstalk.bell.ca. The took kit includes a conversation guide, helpful tips for the workplace as well as shareable images for you to use to show your support.
Bell’s goal is to help end the stigma around mental illness and wants us to know that it is easier than you think! On their website they have identified that one in five Canadians will suffer from mental illness at some point in their lifetime. A huge challenge for anyone suffering from mental illness is overcoming the stigma. It is the number one reason why two-thirds of those living with a mental illness do not seek help.
Eating disorders are identified as a mental illness and have the highest mortality rate of any mental illness. Both males and females can struggle with an eating disorder and so many individuals do not seek help due to shame and secrecy and/or a lack of treatment options. There are so many great organizations that are working hard to end the stigma towards mental illness in general and against eating disorders specifically.
Developed in partnership with Dr. Heather Stuart, the Bell Canada Mental Health and Anti-stigma Research Chair at Queen's University, share 5 simple ways to help end the stigma that keeps too many who struggle with mental illness from seeking the help they need. We have also included points under each of the categories that are helpful to those who are struggling with an eating disorder.
5 Ways you can help:
1. Language matters. The words you use can make all the difference. Words can help but they can also hurt. It is important to be respectful and empathetic. Often times, those who struggle with mental illness are already very harsh and critical with themselves and need supports who can help provide compassion and understanding.
- Making body comments. Although your comment may be well intentioned, the way your loved one interprets this comment may be very different than how you delivered the comment. It is best to focus on positive characteristics of your loved one that has nothing to do with appearance for now.
- Minimizing their struggles by saying things like "It's not that big of a deal." As listed above, validating all of your loved one's struggles is important. Often, your loved one wants someone to listen to them; they do not require you to ‘fix it’ or turn into ‘problem solving’ mode.
2. Educate yourself Stigma has been around for a long time and knowing the facts and myths about mental illness can be a great way to help end stigma. Read about facts and myths and become a stigma buster. We often encourage our clients and friends and families of clients to refer to helpful resources to gain further awareness. A great resource is Jenni Schaefer’s book called “Life Without Ed.” Helpful websites include nedaawareness.org, nedic.ca and soemthing-fishy.org
- The eating disorder is not a choice. Although initially your loved one may have made a conscious decision to diet or lose weight, the development of the eating disorder is beyond anyone’s control. The onset of an eating disorder is based on a complex mixture of biological, cultural, and environmental factors. No-one is to blame for an eating disorder.
- Eating disordered behaviors are external symptoms of an internal problem. The core mechanisms maintaining the eating disorder are made up of distorted, self-critical attitudes about weight, food, and body image. Fears around weight gain rarely come from a place of vanity, but rather stem from insecurity around personal identity, self-esteem, and the perceptions of others.
- Your loved one has an eating disorder, she is not an eating disorder. Eating disorders often alter one’s personality, interests, and mood states, making those who struggle seem like different people to their families and friends.
3. Be Kind
Simple kindness can make a world of difference. Whether it be a smile, being a good listener or an invitation for coffee and a chat, these simple acts of kindness can help open up the conversation and let someone know you are there for them.
Expressions like "You'll get over it" and "Just relax" can minimize how a person is feeling. Instead offer your support and say "I'm sorry you aren't feeling well." Ask what you can do to help.
- Soothing statements- "No wonder you feel... ." "I am here for you" Asking your loved one what would be helpful to hear in moments of distress.
- Focus on how your loved one is feeling. Validate these feelings as they are very real.
- Respecting physical and emotional space.
4. Listen and ask
Mental illness is a very common form of human pain and suffering. Being a good listener and asking how you can help, sometimes just even being there for people you care about, can be the first step in recovery.
Here are a few examples of what to ask:
- I'm sorry you aren't feeling well.
- I've noticed you've seemed down lately.
- Is everything ok?
- How can I help?
5. Talk about it Break the silence. Mental illness touches us all in some way directly or through a friend, family member or colleague. Stories of people who have experienced mental health issues and who are doing well can really challenge stereotypes. Most people with mental health issues can and do recover, just by talking about it.
- We also strongly encourage family and friends to ask their loved one what they view as personally helpful to them. Creating space for open and honest communication is extremely valuable to assist them in their recovery.
To help you be part of the conversation, the Bell Let’s Talk Conversation Guide was created. It provides information and resources on how you can facilitate a conversation in your community, as well as guidelines on how to have conversations with people you care about and may be concerned about. It is a great resource and can be found on the Bell Let’s Talk website.
On January 25th, please talk, text and join in on social media and Bell will donate 5 cents to mental health initiatives!