Bell Let’s Talk: raising awareness, combating stigma

By Patricia Leboeuf

Posted on Thursday, February 7, 2019


Garrison Petawawa took part in Bell Let’s Talk to foster a safe and healthy place for all members of the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) and the Defence Team, as well as their families.

“This is an opportunity to end the stigma around mental health,” said Personnel Support Programs (PSP) Health Promotion Specialist Trina Mansour. “We are bringing awareness to the resources there are at the Garrison.”

To better highlight the need to talk about mental health, most units had an activity like a coffee chat with discussion of resources available for members. Notably, volunteers from PSP Health Promotion, the Petawawa Military Family Resource Centre (PMFRC), Padres and the Canadian Armed Forces Transition Unit were at CANEX over lunch on Jan. 30 with an educational display. They also handed out resources and information as well as Bell Let’s Talk grab-bags.

Conversations about mental illness have been shown to decrease stigma by bringing awareness to just how common the issue is.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, about 50 per cent of the population will have or have had a mental illness by age 40, with one in five people personally experiencing a mental health problem or illness in any given year. Statistic Canada compared those numbers amongst CAF members with 48.4 per cent admitting to having or having had a mental health issue during their lifetime; alcohol abuse at 24.1 per cent and depression at 15.7 per cent are the most prevalent problems.

“It happens to all of us,” said PMFRC Clinical Manager Liisa Kuuter. “We all go through difficult times. We go through stress, go through anxious times, depressed time and the key is not to do it alone.”

Just being kind and listening to people’s struggles can have a fundamentally positive impact, said Mansour.

“It is very simple steps to encourage something much greater,” she said, adding mental health is a key aspect of being an operationally ready soldier, alongside physical fitness and technical training.

4th Canadian Division Support Base Operations Services Petawawa (4 CDSB Ops Svcs Petawawa) Commanding Officer Lieutenant-Colonel (LCol) Joe Hartson helped promote the event at CANEX. He openly admitted to suffering from Post-traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), and encouraged others who are struggling to get the help they need to live happy, productive lives despite their challenges.

“Things have gotten a lot better from the 90s when you didn’t talk about it,” he said. “It is important that we keep this initiative rolling forward and keep the stigma at bay. “There is nothing to hide, nothing to be ashamed of,” he added.

Members of the Defence Team and their families are encouraged to talk about their problems and seek treatment. Military members can turn to the Canadian Forces Member Assistance Program (CFMAP), the Employee Assistance Program (EAP) and Sentinels Program as well Padres, the Health Promotion team, Mental Health Services, and the PMFRC.

“There are lots of resources out there, people just have to not be afraid to ask for help,” said LCol Hartson.

As part of their corporate campaign, Bell donated $0.05 to Canadian mental health initiatives for every text message, mobile, and long distance call, Bell Let’s Talk Day video view on social media, tweet using #BellLetsTalk, use of the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook frame or Snapchat filter.
continued on next page

According to the Bell Let’s Talk website, the funds for 2019 will be contributed to Bear Clan Patrol, CHEO, Strongest Families Institute and l’Université du Québec à Montréal.

Since it began in 2010, Bell’s total donation to mental health programs now stands at $93,423,628.80.
For more details on the campaign and how the money is raised and spent, please visit letstalk.bell.ca.