For the fourth year in a row, Canadians were more than willing to talk. Bell’s “Let’s Talk” campaign, a mental health initiative aimed at ending the stigma associated with the illness, raised almost $5.5 million in just a 24-hour period. Social media was a major contributor to the campaign, as 109,451,719 tweets, Facebook shares, long distance phone calls and texts were sent with the intent of adding five cents to the total amount raised.
Just as important as social media, however, was the front woman of the campaign – Canadian gold medalist Clara Hughes. Hughes was featured on several television shows and radio stations across Canada this month, where she talked about the cause and her own battle with depression in the 1990s at the height of her athletic career.
Hughes’ story is representative of the fact that mental health is insusceptible to no one – not even world-class Olympic athletes. Having Hughes as the face of such a successful initiative allows people to see that however hard to believe, even the idolized and admired are still only human, making up part of the one in five Canadians who will experience mental illness in their lifetime, according to the Canadian Institute of Health Research.
When public figures are associated with struggles that any of us can plausibly go through, whether that is mental illness, substance abuse or something different altogether, the power to create change and evoke a positive outlook is both extremely significant and meaningful. Especially for younger generations who are growing up and looking for guidance, someone who they admire sending a message of hope could change their entire life and even shape their ideas of their future selves.
Several examples of celebrities who have embraced this notion can be seen in many contemporary examples of pop culture. Demi Lovato, who successfully completed rehab in early 2011, has since started her own scholarship program, released a self-help book and has reiterated the message “Stay Strong” to fans who are going through their own struggles. Clara Hughes and Demi Lovato have influenced an entire group of people while only being honest about themselves, admitting their flaws and personal mistakes along the way.
In a Hollywood era filled with the pressure to be perfect, going against such norms is a rare occurrence. However, campaigns like Bell’s “Let’s Talk” are only strengthened by such endorsements, for when a person sees that they are not alone can they truly start to get better.