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We are richer than we think…thanks Bell!

20130102_175621This is a tribute to folks who donate and big hearted companies who make a difference by supporting initiatives to remove the stigma in mental health.

Last March I was visiting my family in Oakville.   My cousin was driving along Lakeshore to take me to the train station in downtown Toronto.  The houses around that area are breathtaking and I could not help but say as I was admiring one beautiful mansion, “Wow, it must be nice having money” as I uttered a long sigh.

Now my cousin may have thought I may have been making reference to the fact that rich = easy and not so rich = struggling and unhappy.  I am a counsellor.  I work for a non-profit organization and I advocate/ volunteer in different areas of mental health.  So she may have thought I was also alluding to the fact that rich people may be uncaring or selfish.  Her response was, “Yep, it must be nice and thank goodness we have people fortunate like that who can donate and support important causes.”  TOUCHÉ!!, I thought to myself.  And she is right!

I remember discussing with some friends during our last Quebec election that more taxes to people earning over $130,000 was not the solution…if I earned a lot more $$$ I should would prefer to donate to a darn good cause and “know” where my hard earned money was going.  I may have put a slight dent in that person’s thinking…only slightly.

I thought silently  about my cousin’s comment during the drive…looking at the lake….taking a  last look at Lake Ontario for god knows how long…I missed the GTA, my family and friends… but I had moved back to my “Ville natale”,  Montreal a few years ago.    I had come to realize I had 2 homes…2 places where I felt strong connections to family and friends and they embraced me as well.  I was richer than I thought!

Thinking about my cousin’s comment,  I could not help but think of the many resources non-profit agencies in the country actually count on to survive. Women’s shelters came to mind, homeless shelters and mental health agencies and besides the government, we know that they could not survive without the volunteers on boards of directors, fund raisers, donations and major corporate sponsorship!

Many hard working business people and professionals have  generously donated to non for profit organizations, including health and mental health agencies.  So it is actually a win-win situation, now isn’t it?    I had worked for a huge steel corporation many years ago and I knew how involved upper management was with their community. I remember being inundated with hundreds of requests for donations every year;  and donated… they sure did…I should know, I had a lot of those cheques signed myself by the Vice-President!

I think I had been side-tracked in the past few years working for  a CLSC 10 years and then my current position for 12 years.  We can easily get out of the loop when we are not privy to marketing and fund raising.  In Toronto I may have been more exposed to all the buzzing and hard work involved;  sharing stories with volunteers and regional offices across the country to encourage and motivate them to continue their VALUED work so I could do what I love so much…counsel, listen and offer hope to youths.

 Having worked for non-profit agencies for 20+ years, I am reminded now on how things actually do have to come together to make things happen; success for any non-profit agency is all due to a combination of the energy and efforts of many sources.  Advocates, social scientists,  politicians, legal professionals, medical scientists, researchers, politicians, educators, the helping professions, media, involved citizens and corporations and hard working professionals, business men and women…all coming together and making things happen.  One cannot actually succeed without the other.

It is not “us” and “them” it is WE as a team.  That reminds me of an argument I had with a friend years ago.  He was resentful about major corporations and alluded with disdain to the rich in Westmount – Montreal ( which is like the Forest Hill of Toronto or Manhattan of New York) and how we, professionals in the helping field, would never come close to the money they earned.  So I asked him, “Okay, would you be willing to work 14 to 16 hours a day like many business people, lawyers and medical professionals do?  I know many with BSW’s have opted to work in private industries; many are Human Resource Managers…you always have a choice of where you want to work.  A place that makes money certainly can offer more advantages.  ”  I did not hear a response to that question.  I guess sometimes when you’re right, you really are right!  And I know I was.

I may have “chosen” a career that does not always earn a large remuneration in dollars and cents but for me, the rewards are priceless.  The same goes to volunteering and we reap so much more than we give…truly. (sorry if that sounds too cliché but it`s true)  Of course, I am speaking from a personal standpoint.

For those who work in this field and do not agree, maybe…just maybe, some may have not chosen their right path or some may need a change or maybe they just need a break…{Check out my previous blog “Am I tired or what?”}    I left the private sector “eyes wide open” years ago, fully aware that I had changed careers to follow mypassion…my dream.

As for hard working men and women, children and teens and students as well, who volunteer, donate and create awareness in their institutions,  corporations, schools and the public, thank you for  allowing people like me and so many others in the helping field the opportunity to do what we love.

 I am grateful that many valuable causes have come to fruition thanks to generous corporations and caring people.

Bell, for example, is one company that has been involved for many years with their generosity to many non-profit agencies.  I personally am aware of their generous involvement with two such places:  Kids Help Phone, a nation-wide bilingual help line for youths and Assaulted Women’s Help Line  a bilingual helpline for women in need having lived in abusive relationships, for Ontario.   But of course there are many more causes and projects they are involved with.

In the past few years, Bell’s CEO, George Cope has steered this company into a great venture.  Thanks to his transparency and mother’s generous openness to speak out about her personal experience with mental health, Bell has gotten involved with a project “mental health initiative” a few years ago.   Check out this video…proudly naming Bell with an award from Canadian Ass. Of Mental Health!   Bell CanadaCAMH Transforming Lives Award recipient:

George Cope even succeeded in getting Olympic champion, Clara Hughes as a celebrity spokesperson.  Clara who struggled with depression when she was younger, talks openly about this and THAT in itself seems to have a  “positive ripple effect”.  One person hears about this and it encourages them to talk to a child or friend they are worried about; another person hears about it the day they were ready to give up and make a 180 and DOES get help!  Check out a video clip of an interview with Clara Hughes

Not only are they donating millions of dollars on research and outreach programmes, they have donated to various projects in mental health; checkout out the resources and Let’s Talk so youths and adults can get help; so that people who are suffering from mental illness can finally feel comfortable to get help and not fear the Stigma…Many who have had help agree that the Stigma is more painful and lasting than the mental health condition in itself…now that is painful! We`ve all seen the commercial on TV. “Depression hurts”, right?  So imagine if the stigma, finger pointing and labeling hurts more…ouch!:(

sad teen girlI remember a youth telling me that she was scared because her depressed feelings were getting worse in the past year, she was self-harming and her suicidal ideation were scaring her.  She felt she was at an impasse. What to do? She feared if she told her parents, it would crush them too much and she loved them so. “They’re such amazing parents!  How can I do that to them?”  She refused to see a mental health professional because of what people might think of her.  She too seemed to feel trapped in the stigma to mental health.

I suggested that her parents might be pretty upset learning “later” that she feared telling her parents. That being a parent comes with responsibilities and worrying about your kids is one of them…I added, “Heck, even when you are 40 your parents are still going to worry about you!”  She wrote me later to tell me she finally broke down and told her mom and together they were going to see her family doctor the next day. Hallelujah!  One scared youth got help…but how many do not reach out to anyone out of that fear of being labeled…being misunderstood.  Worse yet, what if many youths and adults still believe that if you are diagnosed with a mental illness you never get better…that is so far from the truth…all the more reason to get TALKING more and more about mental health.

Here is an excerpt from Bell’s Mental Health Initiative:

“2013 Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund Launches

The Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund is part of the Bell Mental Health Initiative, a $50 million multi-year national program in support of mental health.

bell logo let s talkThe 2013 Bell Let’s Talk Community Fund will provide grants of $5,000 to $50,000 to organizations, hospitals and agencies focused on improving access to mental health care and making a positive impact in their communities from coast-to-coast-to-coast”   to read more check out

Thank you Bell and everyone involved in creating awareness for the public so that people can “start talking”; if you have a relative, a friend who is suffering, let them know there is help.  If you are struggling and fear the stigma, please don’t!  There is treatment, there is recovery and there IS definitely hope.

For local readers in Quebec, a great place to start is your family doctor or your local CLSC which is the first entry to a multitude of resources in mental health. It’s all free too!

On February 12, Bell will donate 5¢ more to mental health for every text and long distance call by Bell and Bell Aliant customers, tweets using #BellLetsTalk, and Facebook shares of the Bell Let’s Talk image. To learn more please visit

Since last year, I have had the privilege to attend professional and informative lectures at The Douglas Hospital hosted by Dr. Camille Zacchia  host and facilitator Camilla Zacchia, PhD, Psychologist and at mini psych lectures every fall.  Dr Zacchia started this about 6 years ago to 1)de-stigmatize mental health but mostly to 2)sensitive and 3) inform the general public on mental health…All lectures are videotaped so people can register from afar and be a part of the series Live; the videos are on their website and you can purchase all dvd’s offered in French and in English at a very nominal fee.   I know as I purchased several for our workplace to add to our library and clinical and professional development among staff.

Check out this link to read more about their newsletters, blogs and wealth of free information.      Get informed and spread the word!

Here are a few links that may interest you as well.  Hopefully this blog with said resources will help you help a friend, family member…decide to get help or maybe you are also considering to reach out…it’s time to talk more. 1 in 5 Canadians will have suffered some form of mental health issue but even less of that 20% of Canadians actually DO get help often due to the stigma.

In closing I just want to thank the many people involved in promoting that “anti-stigma” message awareness…and thanks to Bell…hopefully other companies will follow George Cope’s lead.

© Cheryl-Lynn Roberts, Montreal, January 22, 2013   (youths)



A little bit about moi: I am a mom, a nana, a sister, a woman, a friend, a human being…a youth counsellor, Family Life Educator. I have been working in the helping profession for over 25 years and volunteered in various capacities from youths to seniors. Tournesol is my nom de plume for haiku and other Japanese form poetry here at Tournesoldansunjardin I hope you enjoy reading through my daily waka. I also have another blog "Stop the Stigma" where I may stand on my soapbox now and then and hope it will become a place to drop in and share or comment on issues important to you. In that vein this could be a great way to learn from each other. Namaste!

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