On Talking, and Listening

Today is Bell Let’s Talk day, where Bell Canada has agreed to donate 5 cents from every call or text on their network, plus every Instagram, Snapchat, Facebook and Twitter post featuring their hashtag. Over the years, they’ve donated more than $86 million to mental health initiatives in Canada, and have provided support to mental health organizations across the country.

It’s not perfect but it’s an important step in the conversation surrounding mental health issues. While helpful, it can be overwhelming on the day without much attention seemingly paid to the issue for the rest of the year.

The thing of it is this: talking does help. It’s good to be able to talk about problems big and small and know that people will listen even if they can’t offer any tangible solutions.

The problem with Bell’s Let’s Talk campaign isn’t necessarily readily obvious because it addresses the lack of communication about mental health issues and tries to remove some of the stigma of talking about it. Those are both good things to deal with, but the whole day sort of misses the mark.

I’m always hesitant to use the hashtag more than a handful of times because I don’t feel comfortable with the implications of pledging to talk rather than listen. I hope that the people in my life who need me know that I’m here to listen to them if they want to talk but I know that I can’t force them to talk. Tweeting a hashtag won’t really help, because it feels like it’s only good for the one day even though the sentiment is true every day.

Bell Let’s Talk does a lot of good things, but it leaves one big question unanswered.

With all the talking, who’s listening?

Offering to listen, to¬†really listen is not something to be taken lightly. Truly listening to someone is to agree to share their burden and for someone to ask is for that person to ask for your trust. Listening is an agreement that you’ll hold onto that burden because it’s not yours to share with others, and it can be hard to live up to that agreement.

This day is an important day with respect to ending the stigma surrounding mental illness, but all the talking in the world won’t help if no one is listening.