Mental Health Advocate Amanda McGraw urges the conversation to continue after Bell Lets Talk Day

BellLetsTalk day, a day where we as a collective come together online to talk about something that, although is becoming more common, is still very taboo; mental health. January 30th 2019 is BellLetsTalk day, we know that we can expect a lot of hashtags, a lot of personal stories, and a lot of people coming forward with their most vulnerable feelings.

It is days like this that give space to the ones who are most unheard, it gives space to those who want to take a stand, and it gives space to those who want to work toward reducing stigma.  But there’s one thing to remember; BellLetsTalk is just one day. Albeit, a very important day nonetheless, we have to remember that there are still 364 other days a year to keep the conversation going and work towards taking action. Bell has done an amazing job at starting the conversation, they’ve created a movement–but it’s up to us as a community to continue on that movement. Talking about mental health is scary, there’s immense stigma attached to what it means to be mentally ill, a lot of ignorance and hate and misconceptions, but how do you ensure that we don’t allow ignorance to continue? You keep talking, you take action, and you don’t stop at just one day.

BellLetsTalk day opens up the conversation, but the real question is what happens afterward? Where do we go? What do we do? Sometimes these can be daunting questions, it may seem impossible to really move forward and drive change in your community. You can start by reaching out to your local mental health agency, see if there are any volunteer positions, ask if there are any forums or conferences that are taking community voice. Reach out to your local MPP to talk about what kind of initiatives are happening in your city, or just to talk about what their plan is for your city and mental health as a whole. Don’t have time to do those things, or feeling scared of those steps? Try starting with smaller things such as reaching out to friends, family, or coworkers. Let people know that it’s okay to talk about their struggles, don’t be afraid to start the conversation—don’t let stigma win. We all, as a collective, want to abolish stigma. We all as a collective want to create space and live in communities where it’s okay to talk about the hard stuff.

BellLetsTalk day is an amazing start, but it doesn’t end here.

-Amanda McGraw

Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund Project Update

In 2018 The New Mentality received a grant from the Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund to host 10 free safeTALK trainings across the Province. As we participate in Bell Let’s Talk Day today we want to thank Bell for supporting our New Mentality network to become suicide-alert. 

This project has improved the New Mentality’s youth and adult allies’ capacity to support suicide first aid in their communities. Through this initiative, 250 youth and adult allies will be trained to recognize when thoughts of suicide are present, how to directly ask if someone is having thoughts of suicide, and the appropriate steps to take action by connecting them with life-saving intervention resources. Through training youth, adult allies, and community members, communities across Ontario will be suicide-safer.

This project was launched at Disable the Label 2018 where 20 youth mental health advocates were trained to become suicide-alert helpers. Since then we have hosted trainings in Timmins, Thunder Bay, Mississauga, Burlington, Ottawa and Toronto. In February 2019 we will conclude this project with three trainings happening in Woodstock, Sarnia, and Peterborough.

Impact on New Mentality Network

“As a youth, I have been involved in peer to peer support in child and youth mental health for eight years but found it difficult to talk about suicide. Suicide attempts are on the rise with youth. It is real. It is happening. Taking the safeTALK training has provided a way to have that very difficult conversation which can result in saving a life.” –Deserae Gable, New Mentality Kingston with the Maltby Centre

The New Mentality currently has 24 groups across Ontario. One of their main activities is hosting events and speaking in their communities, with a focus on reducing stigma, improving local mental health services, and educating youth on where to go in their community for support. These events are highly successful and engage a large number of community members. Some groups reach over 1,000 individuals a year.

Due to the nature of this work, New Mentality youth and allies act as informal gatekeepers – they are often the initial contact for people talking about mental health challenges. As such, it is important that they are knowledgeable about mental health, know the resources available in their community, and are prepared on what to do when they feel someone might be having thoughts of suicide. Through improving the capacity of these gatekeepers to address, notice and respond to situations where suicide thoughts might be present, they will help build a responsive community and help save lives.

About safeTALK

safeTALK is an half-day alertness training that prepares anyone over the age of 15, regardless of prior experiences or training, to become a suicide-alert helper. safeTALK has found that most people with thoughts of suicide don’t truly want to die, but are struggling with the pain in their lives. Through their words and actions, they invite help to stay alive.  safeTALK-trained helpers can recognize these invitations and take action by connecting them with life-saving intervention resources, such as Ontario’s community-based mental health system.