Social Media Helps Small Voices Be Heard

“Everyone in the family is entitled to medicines, clean teeth and new glasses every two years . Everyone except Maite , because, as so aptly stated the lady on the phone : ” We can’t really insure her because, you know , she could … Well, you know what. ‘”


This was the quote from an article published a couple of weeks ago that LaPresse chose to share on Facebook with the article. As you will most likely agree, it is an eye-catcher. So, I clicked on it. (The article is only available in French. All quotes have been translated to English to facilitate comprehension.)

In short, this family applied for insurance. Everyone got accepted except their daughter because she had attempted suicide the year before. The father chose to turn to social media to share their story on this outrageous treatment. It didn’t take long for the insurance company to call them back and assure them their daughter was also getting insured. They justified it as an administrative error.

You believe in the administrative error?

“Honestly, no,” replied Mr. Gaudreault.

Honestly, me neither. If not for the message posted on Facebook and its negative impact on the image of the company, I doubt that the Desjardins Group would have relented so quickly.All it proves is the incredible power of social networks, which are changing the rules of corporate stake.

insure vs ensure

I was very sad to hear about the prejudice towards their daughter, but I was very grateful for the online support the family found when the father shared their story online. Mental health is still something that many people don’t understand and have trouble dealing with.

This reminded me of when I struggled with depression and I found a beautiful TED Talk from this man who shared his experience with depression. Andrew Solomon is a great author and an inspiring speaker. He writes and talks about mental health and the hardships of minorities. He, like many others, was able to share his very personal struggle through social media. Listening to him talk about his struggle, listening to how human and real he was, helped me connect and keep working on getting better. He chose one of the many ways to get an important message out to the population and it worked.

This reminded me of Leelah Alcorn, who is a transgender girl who committed suicide because of having no support or understanding from her family. She attracted international attention by publishing her suicide note online, concluding it with:

“The only way I will rest in peace,” Leelah continues, “is if one day transgender people aren’t treated the way I was, they’re treated like humans, with valid feelings and human rights. Gender needs to be taught about in schools, the earlier the better. My death needs to mean something. My death needs to be counted in the number of transgender people who commit suicide this year. I want someone to look at that number and say ‘that’s f***ed up’ and fix it. Fix society. Please.”


When small voices, the voices of minorities or the voices of people suffering from mental illness, want to be heard, it’s not always easy. When it comes to talking to figures of authority, it can be even harder, because of not fitting in the “norm”. What social media does is it allows individuals to be heard by everyone and holding big businesses accountable for not listening to the small voices as equally as everyone else.

Social media also helps spread awareness on subjects that aren’t always easy to talk about. Mental illness is one of them. Sexual orientation and gender are two others. Being able to go online and read, talk, connect with people who are also dealing with similar things can be very helpful, especially when one is limited by money and resources.

Have you ever turned to social media to get the support and help you needed? Why choose online instead of in person or other resources?



4 thoughts on “Social Media Helps Small Voices Be Heard

  1. Hi Gaby:

    Thank you for this piece. I’m sincerely glad I read it. It was eye-opening… and makes it clear just how valuable and powerful a tool social media can be for minority or special interest groups. I mean it’s one thing to use it to expose the corporate greed and callousness of mammoth corporations like United Airlines [ see the Dave Carroll case, but it’s quite another to use it to cast the spotlight on the discrimination of the mentally ill and disabled [|_0.html.]

    I’m French so I read the piece from La Presse and it’s clear that Desjardins backed down under social media pressure. It’s also clear that had the Gaudreault family not opted for handling the situation in this manner, it is quite likely that : a) it would not have changed its mind and covered Maïté or b) if it did, act so expeditiously to right the wrong they had done.

    The Trudeau government has made it no secret that it plans to prioritize mental health issues. As a Health Canada employee, I can assure you that our new minister is quite keen on making strides in this area both at the level of service provision and funding. I agree with you and feel that social media is the ideal venue for informing and educating others on such controversial issues. It’s also a great forum to enact some kind of social justice.

    I, too, was scandalized this poor girl was almost left out in the cold because she tried to take her own life. As you know…suicidal thoughts or desires are not the sort of thing you can switch on and off like a light switch. Its ludicrous that an insurance company feels its justifiable to punish victims of mental illness, as though they had any say or control over their own biochemistry or darkest hours. The Gaudreault family was correct in laying the Desjardins Group bare for all to see and social media provided the ideal parameters for producing a just outcome for their sick little girl.

  2. It’s amazing how one little comment on a company’s social media can make such a huge headline. Regardless of acting quickly and changing their minds, their company is now labelled “heartless”. So was it even worth it for them in the beginning to deny the insurance?

  3. Although I have not reached out to social media regarding minorities and mental health issues, I applaud the ones that do, particularly the ones that go viral. It takes courage to put yourself out there, and I think that may be one of the reasons that people with mental health issues may not speak up. Sometimes it is easier to type something online in cyber space than it is to talk about it. I think you will see more of this and therefore it will be changing the conversation. I appreciate you taking the time to put this on the table.

  4. In instances such as this, I love how influential social media can be in terms of strong-holding big companies. (as a side note) Other Insurance companies would be silly to not capitalize on this blip against Dejardins. Recently, Manulife began to offer medical coverage for PLWH, which was a huge win for this often stigmatized group of individuals. It seems ridiculous that someone who has attempted suicide would not be covered.

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