This is what I think
This has nothing to do with home décor. So sue me.
This is to do with the #BellLetsTalk twitter/text campaign to raise awareness of mental health, and a response to it being characterized in some quarters as a cheap, cynical move by a megalomaniacal corporation to grab the nation’s attention for the day with some shallow, self-serving and ultimately meaningless gesture. No dear, I feel like saying, that’s the House of Commons you’re thinking of.
Anyone not already convinced that we need to pay attention to mental health should ask three friends if their families have experienced mental illness. I can almost guarantee all will have been touched.
Read a paper, even occasionally, and you’ll be forced to consider how we treat the mentally ill in the criminal justice system. Of course Ashley Smith comes to mind. What were we thinking?
Listen to radio, and you may also happen across a scientist talking about the chemical basis of behavior and how it might relate to issues of culpability and cognitive development. Or a dad talking about the PTSD his soldier son brought back from Afghanistan. You will be thinking hard, by this point. Very complex, and very far-reaching. And all that’s before you get to sports pages.
Let me be clear. I despise most of the corporations I deal with, finding them un-navigable and inscrutable. My call is important to you, my big fat butt, it is. And I too, not so secretly, avoid pink ribbons, mostly because I think the world has enough plastic shit already, especially in grotesque shades of pink.
And yes, Twitter is mostly stupid. Yes it is, and you know it. All too often, it’s a roiling cesspool of vitriol, childishness and ignorance. But you have to admit it’s also good for spreading a message quickly, no?
I also get that people criticize Bell as a media behemoth. But if you want to have a conversation about media concentration, let’s get together over wine. I’ll explain why this is a poor example to pick to illustrate its dangers. In fact, I’ll convince you that it’s an example of corporate good. Here’s why:
I grew up on the proverbial quiet street in the then-rural King City. I was, btw, by all accounts a lovely and brilliant child. (I find it hard to believe you have two sources for that – editor)
Everyone knew everyone. But not one of all those families ever breathed a word about mental illness.
Had they done so, the response would have surely ended in a joke about “Sixth Floor, Whitby-Cuckoo” a reference to the regional psych unit. But it could also have made me realize that it was not just my family in which this weird uncomfortable thing lived. That would have made life easier. In fact, how different all round things might have been if anyone had talked about it.
Fifty years later, I know that at least six people on that street grappled with their mental health. In some cases, it went across generations, and in some it ended in suicide.
We did not talk about these things. Not among ourselves. Not even to ourselves. Although later in life, I became very comfortable with what we call #MySlavicMelancholia — also the title of my new novel — in case anyone from the Harlequin Div. is reading. (Enough with the shameless promotion – editor.)
So it’s a good thing to spend the day talking about mental health. Even if starts with stupid little messages. Whether or not Bell sponsors it. (Although if they want to see my support as tactic, and reward me with a fat freelance gig or two with the Globe, je suis tres available.)
Frankly, I had not really even thought about Bell until I heard people harping on it. My opinion of them hasn’t changed (see inscrutable above). And of course there’s something in it for them. But I wasn’t thinking about that.
I was thinking about how many kids on that street suffered from some form of mental illness. I was remembering the red-haired boy – one of my first ever neighbours, my brother Michael’s best friend*, and the fellow who walked me to my first school dance. A funny guy, and a genius with food. A good friend to my brother. Also, a good fixer of cars and builder of forts. Died too young. #BellLetsTalk
*Several good stories about Michael and said friend getting into trouble. Remind me sometime.