07/19/2013 12:24 EDT | Updated 09/18/2013 05:12 EDT

How Celebrity Hurts the Mental Health Cause


Earlier this year Bell Let's Talk Day raised an incredible 4.8 million dollars for mental health initiatives across Canada. This is a great campaign, and I love how people in the spotlight come forward to discuss their personal mental health journeys with the public. I think it's great celebrities and stars talk about mental health issues they struggle with, but I don't think it's great how much attention is given to just the celebrity and not the mental illness itself.

It's always considered breaking news in entertainment if a celebrity comes out and talks about a mental illness they struggle with, such as depression or anxiety. But if regular everyday people such as you and I "come out" to the community, we are definitely not given the same positive attention.

Society not only bends over backwards to applaud a celebrity when they are open about mental health, they consider them heroes. On the other hand, when society finds out Carol or Mohammed is bipolar, people view them as weak, strange, sick and even frightening. On many occasions people will avoid friends or family members because they just don't know how to act, or what to say to someone with a mental illness. "I feel bad, but I don't want to get involved". "That person always seemed a bit off".

Many people don't understand or care to learn about mental illness because it doesn't affect them, right? Wrong. One in five Canadians will have a mental illness at some point in their lifetime. Everybody knows somebody who has a mental illness, or they themselves have one.

So why do we not treat these people, or ourselves, like heroes? We are the ones who have to deal with the mental health system, the waiting time, the unknowns, the ups and downs. Celebrities who talk about mental health are great, but let's be realistic, they don't receive the same treatment as you or I. They don't have to be put on months long waiting lists to see an OHIP covered psychiatrist or specialist that is underpaid and overworked. They can afford to take the time off and actually get private care from the best of the best in the medical field.

If you have personally dealt with a mental illness during your life, you have gained something I like to call mental wealth. You know what it's like to feel good when you're doing well, you know how bad it can be when you are low.

You have experienced things many people will never understand unless they've been through them personally. You are the real hero. You are the hero of your own life for waking up every morning even though you may not want to. You are your own hero for taking that medication to keep your mood stable. You are a hero for going to all the appointments. You are a survivor of the system, and you are a hero for still being here. Mental wealth is speaking out about mental illness, learning about mental illness, educating others and supporting those who need us.

Bell Let's Talk Day is a really great start, but we need to talk about mental health issues every single day. We need to stand up and educate others because they won't learn unless we teach. We need to fund more research, get involved with agencies, and take initiative in our own lives. Just because you can't physically see a mental illness, does not make it any less important.

A standing ovation is necessary for all the families and friends who support us day in and day out with our mental illness. Congratulations to all the heroes who get through each day with their personal battles. And finally, thank you to the amazing doctors, psychiatrists, social workers and other mental health professionals who continue to make a difference in the lives of all these heroes.

The Toll Of Mental Illness In Canada