Bell Let’s Talk shows the power of social media to do good

We see the power of social media with personal communication, brand awareness and politics, and on Wednesday, Jan. 25 we saw the power of social media for a cause.

My Bell Let's Talk Facebook profile picture

My Bell Let’s Talk Facebook profile picture

On Wednesday I participated in Bell Let’s Talk Day, which aims to raise awareness and reduce the stigma around mental health issues. On this day, Bell donates 5¢ more to mental health initiatives for every Bell text, mobile and long-distance call, use of the Bell Let’s Talk Snapchat geofilter, view of the Bell Let’s Talk video on Facebook, and tweet and Instagram post using the #BellLetsTalk hashtag.

The college where I work hosted a Bell Let’s Talk event to raise awareness of mental health issues and increase participation in the Bell Let’s Talk social media efforts. Mental health is such an important topic in post-secondary institutions because college and university can be very stressful; there are so many social and academic pressures during this period in your life.

At this event, students and staff were encouraged to share #BellLetsTalk social media messages, enjoy musical performances, gain information about on-campus mental health supports, take some Bell Let’s Talk swag, and relieve stress by painting a canvas or riding an exercise bike. There was strong participation in the event and it was great to see everyone gather for a good cause.

“Mental health issues are often misunderstood and surrounded by stigma, but this initiative for dialogue and awareness is making it seem less taboo.”

But my campus were not the only ones participating in Bell Let’s Talk. According to the Bell Let’s Talk media release, there were more than 131 million Bell Let’s Talk interactions! How amazing is it that millions of people made the effort to show their support for mental health? Mental health issues are often misunderstood and surrounded by stigma, but this initiative for dialogue and awareness is making it seem less taboo; people are sharing their personal journeys with the world and their messages are being received with open minds and open hearts. It is beautiful to see how kind and caring the world can be!

“…the event may also contribute to improving Bell’s brand image”

On my social media feeds, Facebook friends changed their profile pictures to include the Bell Let’s Talk photo frame, and many shared status updates encouraging people to call or text them to help raise money for the cause. What I also noticed in these updates was messaging along the lines of: “regardless of your feelings of Bell as a service provider…” or “while I’m not Bell’s biggest fan…,” which I find interesting—in addition to raising money for a good cause, the event may also contribute to improving Bell’s brand image (a “greedy corporation” doing good might paint Bell in a better light).

I also read Instagram posts where people shared their personal mental health issues and encouraged followers to share their own as well, and I scrolled through countless tweets that helped make #BellLetsTalk a trending topic. I’m sure many of you came across this trending topic on your social media that day as well. According to the Bell Let’s Talk media release, Snapchat and Instagram were new partners to the cause this year, which helped it grow 4.6% from 2016. The end result, Bell Let’s Talk announced on Twitter, is a donation of $6,585,250.50 to mental health initiatives.

@Bell_LetsTalk announces the final results on Twitter

@Bell_LetsTalk announces the final results on Twitter

This visibility on mental health issues will help educate others and, I hope, end the stigma. I think for Bell as a communications company, this is the perfect cause to give to because talking about mental health issues and listening to those struggling is so important. And as a company with many negative customer reviews (ask around, how many of your friends have Bell customer service horror stories?), organizing an event to give back will certainly help improve their image.

Personally, whether Bell is donating to mental health initiatives because they genuinely care or because it’s a savvy public relations move, I’m just happy a powerhouse like Bell has taken on this important cause and is helping bring people together.

Do you think Bell organizes Bell Let’s Talk just for the sake of doing good or is it just a clever marketing move? (Or can it be both?) 

— Social media posts —

Facebook: Canadians came together on social media to support Bell Let’s Talk, a conversation about mental health issues and a fundraiser for mental health initiatives in Canada. In “Bell Let’s Talk shows the power of social media to do good,” I discuss the event and the added brand benefits it may have for Bell. Check it out here: https://goo.gl/A3eX4P

Twitter: Did you support #BellLetsTalk? Let’s talk about the movement and the brand benefits it may have for #Bell https://goo.gl/A3eX4P

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6 thoughts on “Bell Let’s Talk shows the power of social media to do good

  1. As someone who has struggled with depression for a lot of my life, I find it hard to be supportive of Bell Let’s Talk – which I suppose is ironic.
    A year ago, a fellow coworker wrote this article for Canadaland, Let’s Talk About How My Job at Bell Gave Me Mental Health Issues and No Benefits (http://www.canadalandshow.com/lets-talk-about-how-my-job-bell-gave-me-mental-health-issues-and-no-benefits/) and I found it incredibly powerful.
    As someone who was well-known in many media circles at the time, she figured the article would destroy her career. That anxiety in itself is telling.
    With rates of teen suicide and depression steadily rising, I find the impact of a social media campaign put on by a billion-dollar corporation slightly misleading.
    Six months ago, I was unemployed and went to a walk in clinic for a prescription for anti-depressants and a counselling referral. I was given the prescription that day, but because I didn’t have benefits, my choice was to either pay $120/hour for a counselor or wait for an opening through OHIP and with current waiting lists, my doctor advised it could be 3 or 4 months before I would get a call. Every month I went back to get my prescription refilled and every month was told he hadn’t heard anything. And that was in Ontario, in the GTA – our largest, most modern centre.
    When I lived in the Northwest Territories, the lack of mental health services was devastating. Both my friend and I called multiple times and were redirected to answering machines or unanswered and ignored phone calls. Sometimes we were passed between people until we hit dead ends or out of service numbers. Working for the media there, we covered numerous stories of suicides resulting from lack of treatment. This is a total failure of our government and medical system in a country like Canada.
    I understand the premise of Bell Let’s Talk, but it has been running for years now and all of these issues are still there. First Nations communities in Northern Saskatchewan and Ontario declared states of emergency this past year due to youth suicide.
    In this way, I feel social media can give the false impression of making a difference, when in reality things remain unchanged.

    • Hi Lennyandthejets (great name choice, by the way!),

      Thank you for sharing your personal experience. I appreciate your insight on this issue and am sorry to hear about the struggles you have experienced with our healthcare system.

      I took a look at the Canadaland article and liked her term “permalancer.” As a graduate of a journalism program, many of my fellow graduates are in permalancer positions at Canadian media companies. Unfortunately, these are terrible spots to be in when it comes to benefits (a friend of mine broke her leg not long ago and had to borrow used crutches from a friend instead of paying for new ones). It is unfortunate that Bell of all places would put people in these positions, knowing full-well the difficulties of mental health issues.

      I do appreciate that Bell Let’s Talk takes an often “silent” issue and helps people raise their voice, and for that I do think it has a positive impact; however, it’s impact on our actual healthcare system and mental health resources is questionable. I like your comment, “In this way, I feel social media can give the false impression of making a difference, when in reality things remain unchanged.” I like to think Bell Let’s Talk at least helps change the public’s perception on mental health, but perhaps it does need to make more of an impact on changing actual services, resources, and healthcare surrounding mental health issues in Canada.

      Thank you so much for your very informative comment. You’ve left me thinking more about this issue and the many other topics that stem from it….

  2. This post (and Lennyandthejet’s comment) have provided some really great food for thought! I realized I’ve never given a lot of thought to Bell’s motivations behind their #BellLetsTalk campaign. I would like to think it comes from a good place but then the treatment of their employees contradicts this notion and makes me think it is more about creating a good public image.

    This hits on some of my issues with social media activism in general. It’s good because a hashtag that brings about donations is easy to use and promotes participation and I fully support that. But how much change comes about because of it?

    It reminds me of a Facebook cause that went around a few years ago where people were changing their profile photos to their favourite 80’s cartoon characters to “raise awareness for child abuse.” What good did that do? I think people genuinely want to help but they don’t necessarily know how to help. Campaigns that are largely based on “raising awareness” miss the step where that awareness then becomes some kind of action.

    I really hope #BellLetsTalk winds up creating that action and change through the community gatherings you were describing at various universities etc. But I really just don’t know! Thanks for the post, Leigh!

    • Hi Maureen,

      Thank you for your comment! There are so many things to consider with this topic, eh? I agree with you, I hope the community gatherings and small-scale events surrounding Bell Let’s Talk help create change. And on the plus side of #BellLetsTalk, I think it provides motivation for organizations, schools and businesses to organize these gatherings and talk about mental health– which is a good thing.

  3. I think Bell is putting forth an amazing effort, but I don’t think its the general public they need to be focusing on. I think many businesses need to be better educated on mental illnesses than simply any person on the street. I know they did a bunch of add campigns about mental health in the work place, but I get the feeling that businesses are just not listening. I feel like companies are only just starting to recognize mental illness but they are still far from understanding how to deal with it HR wise. For example, in the advertising and marketing industry I was told by a professor at school that it is one of the top five most stressful careers. When I was on my internships I witnessed this first hand. People were stressed and overworked in some cases to tears and my own sister-In law has told me stories about her own carrer in advertising. Yet, I got the feeling that no one cares. They can simply hire someone else. I think this is a bit bold of me to say, and I mean this in a very general sense, but my point is that businesses need a lot of convicing to take a more humanized approach, companies are indeed changing to promote healthy work/life balance and some do it amazingly while others can’t seem to wrap their heads around it. Bell should have a seperate campaign geared only towards helping companies fully understand the range of illnesses and how to promote a safe, healthy work environment for employees. Then again, who mentiones in their job interview that they have schizophrenia, GAD, or Depression? Until the day someone can say in an interview, “I have depression” and the interview says “That’s ok, we understand” mental illness will still be a taboo word in the office.

    • Great feedback! Thinking about this, it makes me realize how much we glamorize the stress at workplaces, especially in movies (ex. “Wall Street”). I agree, businesses really vary on how they handle mental health issues, which is unfortunate. Perhaps because of how we glamorize workplace stress in pop culture, some workplaces may think stress and anxiety is just “part of the job.” I think a mental health campaign targeted towards businesses would be a fantastic initiative and could be done similar to their campaign for schools, except materials and merchandise would be catered towards HR departments.

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