Today marks the first Bell Let’s Talk Day that I’m not participating in at all since its inception, and the first one in 4 years that I’m not participating in as a member of a mental health organization.
Let me preface this by saying that the things I’m about to say are in no way meant to undermine the accomplishments of Bell Let’s Talk and the advocates who support it, or to make anyone feel bad for participating. If this campaign brings you hope, a sense of belonging and community, a way to feel like your voice is being heard – I am happy for you and for those reasons I think that it has done great things and is still, by far, better than nothing.
Some people in the mental health community (and outside of it for that matter) knock Bell Let’s Talk because they dismiss it as simply a marketing ploy. I’ve always thought this viewpoint is too simplistic. Is it a marketing ploy? Yes, absolutely. It has brought Bell a great deal of positive press over the past 8 years. Bell is a for-profit company; they would not run any campaign if they did not believe it would make them money, no matter how much they wanted to. What people do not always understand is that literally everything, ever, is a direct or indirect marketing ploy, but that doesn’t make it bad.
Even everything that non-profit organizations do is a marketing ploy, designed to attract donors and volunteers. Non-profits care about money almost more than for-profits do, because even non-profits need to cover their own expenses and that alone is very hard for them to do. They need even more money to actually expand and, you know, do things. My point in saying this isn’t to make you say, “WELL FUCK EVERYONE, THEN!” None of this is because people or organizations are bad. It’s because this is the way things are because capitalism. What makes an organization good is if they can make money AND do good things at the same time. It’s really easy to do one or the other (although, without money, good can usually only be done on a small scale). It is very hard to do both. The scale and longevity of Bell Let’s Talk shows how effective they have been at accomplishing this elusive goal.