Trigger warning: The content and commercials featured in this article may be disturbing to some readers.
If you or a loved one is struggling, visit talksuicide.ca. You can also call Talk Suicide Canada toll free at 1-833-456-4566. Québec residents can call 1 866 APPELLE (277-3553).
Bell Canada’s annual mental health campaign day, Let’s Talk, is receiving criticism in its 13th year. While many across the country took to their social media to promote or take part in the day, including major corporations and facilities like the Toronto Maple Leafs, the Ottawa Senators, Toronto’s CAMH hospital, the Toronto Film Festival and Calgary Police, some Canadian viewers and experts are sharing a different view.
This year, the campaign's television advertisements and billboards have struck a nerve. Some feel the grave subject matter, which addresses issues like suicide and anxiety, is sensationalizing the topic, as well as has the potential to negatively trigger people with mental health issues.
For someone who suffers from depression Bell Let’s Talk commercials don’t help.
— 🇨🇦ƬӨЯᄃΉIΛ🇫🇷🇮🇹 (@kingtorc) January 22, 2023
Those bell let's talk commercials on TV are awful.
— Lenard Monkman (@LenardMonkman1) January 20, 2023
I've never been a fan of #BellLetsTalk day, but this year's approach is next level. Driving home, I passed a billboard with this graphic and the text "200 suicide attempts are made. Per day."
A corporation is using suffering for shock value. For brand awareness. pic.twitter.com/o2lLPVjU5b
— Ro West (@RoisinWest) January 17, 2023
Others point out that more needs to be done for mental health in the country, where it can often be complicated, convoluted and expensive to access the right services.
I'd like this to be the year we end the corporate promotions campaign that is Bell Let's Talk and have government stop abdicating their responsibility to public, comprehensive mental health care.
— Brandon Rhéal Amyot (they/them) (@BrandonAmyot) January 25, 2023
Who else agrees that a single day sponsored by a corporation…is not a substitute for the free & equitable access to #mentalhealth care services that our governments should be providing for us every day? ✋🏽
— Dr. Amit Arya (@AmitAryaMD) January 25, 2023
Yep! I fight too hard for my mind. I fight my Mental Health DAILY and I won't have Bell or any other corporation capitalize on my fight. I have yet to see a fiscal accountability sheet on Bell's "charity" toward mental health...#MentalHealthMatters #bipolartype2 #BellLetsTalk
— Indigenous Shimmer (@PacificRaine2) January 25, 2023
Friendly reminder that Bell Let's Talk Day sucks and is nothing more than a giant ad campaign for Bell. So much so that this year they aren't even doing donations based on texts sent; and they are just profiting on the very real pain of those suffering from mental health issues.
— Colton Kyle (@ColtonSpKyle) January 25, 2023
If we want to radically improve #mentalhealth, let’s give people housing. End poverty. Promote food security. Be anti-racist. Fund harm reduction. Offer workers paid sick days. Provide equitable healthcare (and mental healthcare) to all…After all, equity IS mental health. 🙏🏽
— Naheed Dosani (@NaheedD) January 25, 2023
We need action, not annual empty words.
We need investments in mental health care, particularly in prevention. Every Ontarian should have access to therapy and mental health care. Right now it is only accessible to those who can afford $200+ per session. Most can’t. #onpoli
— Tyler Watt 🇨🇦 (@tylerwatt90) January 25, 2023
Others were critical of the corporations intention. Some put a spotlight on Bell Media's employment practices and recent controversy over the firing of anchor Lisa LaFlamme.
Every bit of love and respect to people sharing their mental health stories, challenges and needs today; zero respect to the PR machine that is Bell Lets Talk Day, prison phone monopolies, or capitalism.
— Shayla (@shaylariane) January 25, 2023
I Take metal health very seriously. However, I will not support #BellLetsTalkDay after the fiasco with Lisa Laflamme and the layoffs last year. Bell caused mental health issues
— halifax man (@sdpuddicombe) January 25, 2023
We definitely need to talk about mental health more and more but supporting Bell is not the way to do it.
— Liz Carroll (@LizLizenns) January 25, 2023
The Let's Talk campaign first launched in 2010, with the intention of creating a dialogue around mental health issues. It has raised tens of millions of dollars towards funding more than 1,400 community grants and various mental health programs and research. According to the Let's Talk website, one third of Canadians say they've taken action related to mental health since Let's Talk first began.