Since 2010, Bell Let’s Talk Day has been opening up the conversation on mental health to break down stigma, raise funds and awareness, and educate. This year is no different—except for the fact that our mental health is getting worse.

Before the pandemic, 1 in 5 Canadians experienced symptoms of mental health disorders but now 1 in 4 Canadians are experiencing these challenges. Even if you’re not experiencing mental health challenges yourself, chances are you will encounter someone in your life who is.

For a person experiencing a mental health challenge, talking about it can be a huge step – sometimes the hardest step. When someone chooses to confide in you about their mental health struggles, how you respond matters. It can be hard to know what to say and how to offer help if they need it.

Fill your own cup

“We can’t practice compassion with other people if we can’t treat ourselves kindly.” –  Brené Brown

As the saying goes, you can’t pour from an empty cup. Before we can help others, we need to be aware of our own mental state and how we are taking care of ourselves. It’s important to take a regular inventory of our mental, physical, social, and emotional states and take care of the areas that are lagging.

Use the Continuum Self Check to see where you are at.

Use these tools if you find you need to support yourself:

For immediate Alberta-specific support services and resources, call 211 Alberta or text INFO to 211.

Listen without judgement

One of the main fears for someone opening up about their mental health is that others will view them differently. Often, we tend to tie mental health to personal identity, so when something is wrong with our mental health, we may think that something is wrong with us as a person. We may even put this judgement on other people, reinforcing the stigma around mental health. It is important to understand that a person’s mental state is not attached to who they are as a person or their worth.

Listening without judgement means taking that internal step to change how you view mental health within yourself and towards others. This will go a long way to reducing the stigma of mental health and allowing people to feel like they can share their challenges about their mental health without being judged.

Respond with compassion

It may be the case that all they need is to talk through their mental health struggles with you and feel heard and understood. Even if you don’t quite understand what they are feeling or going through, it is impactful to show that you care just by being there and listening. Validate how they are feeling by acknowledging what they are saying and ask questions to encourage the conversation.

Avoid responding with toxic positivity. When you respond by dismissing negative emotions and false reassurances, it might actually be harmful.

Check in with them after the conversation and ask them how they are doing. By following up, it emphasizes that you care and are there to help.

Educate yourself

When you know better, you do better. Learning more about mental health and how you can support yourself and others helps to build a community’s natural support system, which is the relationships we have in our everyday lives. There are many opportunities to learn more about mental health through recognised sources.

For Bell Let’s Talk Day, think about how you view mental health and people with mental health disorders. Take a moment to reflect on how you would respond to a friend or relative who tells you, “I don’t feel like myself lately”.  If you think you have room to grow, seek out opportunities to learn. Talking about mental health is difficult but it can be better if we build a community that knows how to listen without judgement and respond with compassion.