Bell Let’s Talk initiative extended a further 5 years, Bell increases Canadian mental health funding commitment to $100 million

Montreal, QC, Tuesday, September 22, 2015

For immediate release

Bell Let’s Talk initiative extended a further 5 years, Bell increases Canadian mental health funding commitment to $100 million

  • Bell Let’s Talk launched in September 2010 as a 5 year, $50 million program to help create a stigma-free Canada and drive action in mental health care, research and the workplace
  • With Clara Hughes leading the national conversation, Canadians have sent almost half a billion messages of hope and support on Bell Let’s Talk Days over the last 5 years
  • Bell Let’s Talk has funded more than 600 partner organizations leading the mental health movement in every region of Canada
  • 81% of Canadians say they are more aware of mental health issues than 5 years ago, 70% believe attitudes have improved, 57% believe stigma has been reduced
  • Learn more about the first 5 years of Bell Let’s Talk at letstalk.bell.ca/letstalkprogressreport

MONTRÉAL, September 22, 2015 – Bell today marked the fifth anniversary of Bell Let’s Talk by announcing the extension of the national mental health initiative for a further 5 years and an increase in Bell’s total funding commitment for Canadian mental health to at least $100 million.

“Canadians have fully embraced the mental health cause, reaching out to those who struggle, making their own voices and stories heard, fighting the stigma around mental illness while also driving Bell Let’s Talk action in anti-stigma, care, research and workplace programs by getting engaged,” said George Cope, President and CEO of BCE and Bell Canada. “Most Canadians, especially young people, say they’ve seen a significant, positive change in awareness and attitudes around mental health in the last 5 years. But as we celebrate our collective progress, it’s also clear to all that much work remains. We have momentum in mental health, so let’s keep the conversation going. On behalf of everyone involved in Bell Let’s Talk, I am proud to announce a 5-year extension of the initiative and an increase in Bell’s funding commitment to $100 million or more, based on the continued engagement of Canadians in Bell Let’s Talk Day.”

Announced on September 21, 2010, Bell Let’s Talk began a new conversation about mental illness, a pressing national health concern beset by a unique stigma and far underfunded and underserved relative to its impact on every Canadian. Mental illness remains the #1 cause of workplace disability and costs the national economy more than $50 billion each year. 1 in 5 Canadians will struggle with a mental illness at some point in their lives, but as few as 1 in 3 seek the help they need, largely because of the lingering stigma.

Bell Let’s Talk is helping move Canada’s mental health forward based on 4 action pillars: Anti-stigma, care and access, new research, and workplace leadership. Since its launch, Bell Let’s Talk has funded more than 600 mental health partners around Canada, from the largest health care institutions and universities to the smallest community organizations in every region, while encouraging engagement by Canadians in the cause with high-profile anti-stigma campaigns like Bell Let’s Talk Day and Clara’s Big Ride for Bell Let’s Talk.

“As national spokesperson for Bell Let’s Talk these last 5 years, I have been amazed and overwhelmed by the passion of Canadians everywhere in sharing their stories and ideas on how we can make things better for all who struggle,” said Canadian Olympian Clara Hughes. “Together we’ve shown that Canadians are ready to lead the world by making our nation the first to be free of the stigma around mental illness. We’ve made incredible progress in the last 5 years, Canada. Let’s keep that spirit rolling forward!”

Bell Let’s Talk was originally launched with a $50 million donation by Bell. Committed to growing its funding though the engagement of Canadians in the cause, Bell also donates 5 cents for messages of hope and support sent on Bell Let’s Talk Day, including calls, texts, shares and tweets (#BellLetsTalk was the #1 Twitter trend in Canada and worldwide on Bell Let’s Talk Day 2015). With approximately 470 million of these interactions by Canadians over the last 5 Bell Let’s Talk Days, Bell’s total commitment to mental health has grown to $73,623,413.80.

Bell has increased its funding target to $100 million by the end of 2020. But as Canadians continue to drive Bell donations with their engagement in the cause on Bell Let’s Talk Day, the total amount could be much higher.

The next Bell Let’s Talk Day is set for January 27, 2016 and the team continues to welcome new spokespeople and ambassadors. Last year, Clara and Québec spokespeople comedian Michel Mpambara and singer-songwriter Stefie Shock were joined by TSN Host Michael Landsberg, entertainers Howie Mandel and Mary Walsh, comedian Kevin Breel, CFL player Shea Emry and professional golfer Andrew Jensen. New to the Bell Let’s Talk team this year are singer-songwriter Serena Ryder, CFL player Étienne Boulay and actor Marie Soleil Dion.

5 years of progress in Canadian mental health “I’ve been part of the mental health community for many years and can safely say that Canada has become a true world leader,” said Mary Deacon, Chair of the Bell Let’s Talk initiative. “There has never been a time when more people were talking so hopefully about the advancement of mental health or more positive action was being undertaken at major institutions and the grassroots level alike. Bell Let’s Talk helps drive engagement in mental health across communications platforms, but it’s the active participation by Canadians in the conversation that has made this incredible progress happen. Thank you everyone for joining the mental health movement!”

Bell Let’s Talk partners report that approximately 450,000 people have already received mental health support through a Bell Let’s Talk funded program – 240,000 of them children and youth – 6,000 staff and volunteers have received additional training, and 1,000 Canadian military families have received mental health support.

A 2015 Nielsen survey undertaken on behalf of Bell Let’s Talk found that 81% of Canadians were more aware of mental health issues than 5 years ago, 70% think attitudes about mental health issues have changed for the better, and 57% believe the stigma around mental illness has been reduced.

The numbers are even more impressive among young people aged 18 to 24: 87% are more aware of mental health than 5 years ago, 79% think attitudes are better, and 65% believe the stigma has been reduced.

“The Bell Let’s Talk campaign has worked so well because it recognizes the importance of partnerships and working with existing organizations and grassroots groups from coast to coast to coast,” said the Honourable Michael Wilson, Chair of the Mental Health Commission of Canada. “And it has worked because Bell has led by example. They have provided leadership on workplace mental health, starting with their own company first, and all their efforts have sent a strong message to people that it’s okay to talk about mental health no matter who you are.”

Bell Let’s Talk initiatives have included Clara’s Big Ride for Bell Let’s Talk, Clara Hughes’ epic 11,000-kilometre bicycle journey to communities around Canada to help make ours the first nation free of the stigma around mental illness; the introduction of new annual community funds supporting grassroots mental health initiatives across Canada, in our Northern territories and for military families; the world’s first university chair in anti-stigma studies at Queen’s University; funding and implementation of the world’s first voluntary standard on workplace mental health; Canada’s first biobank of biological, social and psychological data at the Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal; the Bell Gateway Building at CAMH, the first mental health facility named for a corporation; and the first university-certified workplace mental health training program. Approximately 8,000 Bell managers across Canada have received training in mental health support.

For full details on the progress of Bell Let’s Talk over the last 5 years, please visit letstalk.bell.ca/letstalkprogressreport.

5 simple ways to fight the stigma Bell Let’s Talk is working with Canadians everywhere to create a nation free of the stigma around mental illness. Overcoming the fear and silence is the most important step in driving action and helping ensure those who struggle can seek and receive the help they need. To learn more, please visit Bell.ca/LetsTalk.

Dr. Heather Stuart, the first Bell Mental Health and Anti-Stigma Research Chair at Queen’s University, offers these 5 simple ways to communicate about mental illness without fear or stigma:

  • Language matters: pay attention to the words you use about mental illness
  • Educate yourself: learn, know and talk more, understand the signs
  • Be kind: small acts of kindness speak a lot
  • Listen and ask: sometimes it's best to just listen
  • Talk about it: start a dialogue, break the silence

About Bell Bell is Canada's largest communications company, providing consumers and business customers with wireless, TV, Internet, home phone and business communications services. Bell Media is Canada's premier multimedia company with leading assets in television, radio, out of home, and digital media. Bell is wholly owned by Montréal's BCE Inc. (TSX, NYSE: BCE). For more information, please visit Bell.ca.

Media inquiries:

Jacqueline Michelis Bell Media Relations 613 785-1427 jacqueline.michelis@bell.ca @Bell_News

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