Fortney: Calgary seizes opportunity to talk about mental health

Fortney: Calgary seizes opportunity to talk about mental health

It’s just one venue in the city, though, that is participating in the Bell Let’s Talk Day (bell.ca/letstalk), an annual event sponsored by Bell Canada and now in its eighth year. Along with promoting awareness and understanding of mental health — and reducing the stigma experienced by so many facing mental health issues — it’s also well on its way to raising $100 million by 2020 for organizations across the country that help individuals, families and the community at large.

“It has supported two grants for us,” says Laureen MacNeil, executive director of the Canadian Mental Health Association/Calgary (cmha.calgary.ab.ca). “Both of them have gone to building our school of peer support.”

Along with the much-needed financial aid, MacNeil says the day — which encourages people to talk about mental health via Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and other social media — plays a vital role in promoting a much-needed dialogue throughout the greater society.

“And it continues to grow,” she says, “with everyone engaging in this issue of reducing stigma.”

In the year 2018, MacNeil says she’s more encouraged than ever, thanks to another key improvement: the increasing use of the internet and social media to connect people with help.

“One of the things we’re really proud of is our website, where people can find a ton of information,” says MacNeil, whose organization’s peer support line is manned by a team of 40 trained volunteers who have had their own mental health journeys. “We also include story after story of people who have lived with mental health or addiction issues.”