For all my non-Canadian friends who may have never heard of it before, Bell Let’s Talk is an initiative run by the telecommunications company, Bell. The initiative began in 2010 and seeks to open up conversation about mental health . They have 4 pillars of focus: anti-stigma, care and access, research and workplace health (Bell Canada).
Every year, on Bell Let’s Talk Day, people across Canada and even the world are encouraged to text, call, tweet, and use other social media. For every text sent, hashtag used, or other action taken, Bell donates 5 cents towards Canadian mental health initiatives (Bell Canada). This year, today is Bell Let’s Talk Day!!
As someone who has struggled with mental illness, and seen others around me struggle, I know how detrimental they can be. Since I personally had to go to the United States to find appropriate and timely treatment for my eating disorder, I am able to recognize the need for improvement pertaining to treatment options available for mental illnesses in Canada. In order to bring further attention to this area of the Canadian health system that is seriously lacking, I want to share a little anecdote from my own experience:
When I was in grade 12, I felt myself relapsing into a deeply negative place in relation to my eating disorder. I was eating, but not enough, and I would not sit down until 7:30 pm or later because I thought standing would let me burn a significantly larger amount of calories. A few years earlier, when I was first diagnosed with Anorexia Nervosa, I was referred to a certain outpatient treatment centre. I worked with the team there for a few months to no avail before they referred me on to more intensive programs. When I recognized I was slipping again, I asked my mom to look into returning to treatment at this same place.
So, I did. I met with the team there again only to be told that they refused to work with me. I was told that based on their past experience with me as a 12 year old, they didn’t want to work with me as a 16 year old who had been through multiple treatments. They believed me to be “noncompliant.”
Now, I don’t know about you, but this seems wrong to me on SO many levels. First of all, I had an eating disorder, did they really think I was going to all of a sudden be excited to start eating more and get rid of all my little idiosyncrasies? Compliance does not happen overnight, it’s a timely process. Recovery is the most terrifying thing when you’re in the depths of an eating disorder, and no one is going to jump head first into something that terrifies them more than death.
Also, a 12 year old version of someone and a 16 year old version of that same person are not the same; a ton of things change between those ages. And considering the fact that I had been through three outpatient programs, one day treatment program, two inpatient stays and group family therapy since this team had first worked with me, there’s no doubt that I had changed. Not to mention the fact that I was actively seeking help at this point, as opposed to when I had previously been forced into it without choice.
To sum up, I was basically turned away from treatment for nonsensical reasons. I am beyond grateful that the psychiatrist with the program agreed to continue seeing me and got me into a residential treatment program in Utah, despite the negative perspective of the rest of the team. Without her help, I would have been thrown back out into the fray, and who knows what would have happened next…
The rejection from treatment that I experienced, is something that has happened to friends of mine as well and happens way too frequently. It’s my hope that initiatives like Bell Let’s Talk will be able to stop these things from happening. I hope that they will continue to raise awareness and funds that allow for greater access to treatment and ‘professionals’ who do not turn away individuals in need. Over the past few years, Bell Let’s Talk has done a great job at creating a way for individuals to open up about their mental health, and I hope that it continues to do so. Most importantly though, let’s talk. Not just today, but every day.
Bell Canada. Bell Let’s Talk, 2018, https://letstalk.bell.ca/en/ . accessed 30 Jan 2018.