Ok, let’s talk: A response to the Bell Let’s Talk campaign

This post was written by Danielle Landry. She teaches Mad People’s History as part-time instructor with the School of Disability Studies.

A drawing of a road side stand with the words "psychiatric help 5 cents" on top. Inside the stand there is a person with a blue text box. The bottom of the stand reads "The corporation is in"Ok, let’s talk.

Let’s talk about how those two new workplace scenario commercials only reinforce the idea that it’s unsafe to talk about mental health to your boss or co-workers, instead of establishing that employers in Ontario actually have a duty to accommodate disabled workers, including those with psychiatric disabilities.

Let’s stop positioning disabled people as charity cases through a-nickel-for-every-text campaigns.

Let’s talk about the erosion of our social systems through corporate greed.

Let’s ask why Bell hasn’t instituted any programs to support its low-income customers, such as if they need a reprieve from paying their bills during a hospital stay.

Let’s talk about why it’s not okay that we have to rely on corporate sponsorship to sustain our mental health system. Let’s ask if corporate influence serves to deter (or co-opt) the kinds of radical approaches and critical thinking that are essential for challenging the mental health system to improve and innovate.

Let’s talk about how we’re constantly establishing and maintaining divisions between people (labels, diagnoses, categories of who is ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’) and how these divisions keep us from working together for change.

Let’s question the false dichotomy that’s been created and is being perpetuated in the media between those ‘productive citizens’ with mental health problems and those ‘others’ diagnosed with serious mental illnesses, and how this is a tactic to divide our community and squash social movement.

Let’s talk about how we shouldn’t shame ourselves for not achieving all of the things the white upper-middle celebrities who’ve ‘come out’ to lead these campaigns have managed to achieve in their ‘overcoming’ narratives.

Let’s acknowledge that our experiences differ based on our various social locations, but let’s come together to recognize how we all have a role to play in dismantling all forms of oppression.

Let’s talk about the importance of community.

Let’s talk about universal access as a standard of living.

Let’s talk about our rights.

Let’s talk about our collective history and where we need to go from here.


25 thoughts on “Ok, let’s talk: A response to the Bell Let’s Talk campaign

  1. Very eloquently put. I agree with all of it. I’ve found this series of commercials to be off-putting, especially the one with the female subordinate talking to her female boss. Sorry, but even when the boss is supposed to be sympathetic, she still comes across as judgemental and not at all ready to help her distressed employee.

  2. Reblogged this on Flip Side Conversations and commented:
    Today is Bell’s Let’s Talk Day. I agree, but there’s more to talk about than Bell would like to admit.

    This is my first time actually re-posting another blog post, but what it says is so important. You need to read it.

  3. I’ve seen bosses feign sympathy to obtain the confidence of their employees’ mental health, then stab them in the back. Let’s not talk. Instead, let’s act…with compassion.

  4. Also, they should talk about how much money Bell actually donates to the cause. It seems like it is newspapers and social media that picks up the story and Bell gets lots of great publicity. But what actually to they bring to the table?

  5. Let’s quit ending all crime reports with “is it known whether the perpetrator has a history of menatl illness?” Let’s stop doing that. All the listening public registers at that point is, Mental Illness=Crime. That negates any good Bell’s ‘Let’s Talk’ day might do.

  6. I really loved your fresh way of looking at this “bell lets talk” day. As someone wit her own issues with many family and friends with their own, it is nice to read your perspective. I only wish you had also brought up the fact that people with “mental illness” are also capable of having really valuable qualities themselves. IE they/we are not defined by our weaknesses.

  7. Just came across this link and had to read it again, What a satisfyingly fulsome critique.

  8. For the first time in five years I have cable and I gotta say the campaign leaves something to be desired, even from a marketing perspective. It seems like only the “invisible” mental illnesses get airtime. You never see an emaciated figure or someone who is trying to manage schizophrenia. Bell doesn’t really want to engage with the “ugliness” of mental illness; they just want to jump on a profitable bandwagon. I love the concept but have a certain distaste for the execution.

  9. I agree with everything you said but one, the most fundamental thing, that being the campaign itself being wrong in some way. It’s not a mystery to me or anyone that this is a marketing campaign but that it doesn’t do any good is a myopic view. I’ve seen more posts, had more open conversations and been more aware because of it. It may be doing the company good but I think it’s also doing some good for humanity as well. 6 million isn’t something to scoff at.

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