CityinThree

Every January, people across several different social media platforms come together to tweet, post, and share the hashtag #BellLetsTalk with...

Every January, people across several different social media platforms come together to tweet, post, and share the hashtag #BellLetsTalk with the intent of supporting and fostering the vital conversations that surround mental health. And while it is endearing to read the stories of others and come together as an online community, the hashtag and other campaigns started by retail companies redirects where the conversation regarding mental health should be going.

The most common sentiment expressed by those on #BellLetsTalk day is that of breaking down stigma. To take away the assumption that one with a mental illness is ‘weak’, ‘not trying hard enough’ or ‘lazy’. And yes, this language is degrading and ableist. It hurts and contributes to why mental health is not taken seriously or seen as ‘second-tier’ to physical health. But this conversation needs to be much deeper than insults.

Mental health resources are far from accessible. While teens are disproportionately likely to be affected by mental illness, they often have the least resources. High schools are not at all well equipped for fostering a mental-health conscious environment and are often lacking in the skills to accommodate those who suffer. Simple steps such as having all members of staff be SAFETalk trained, a certification that teaches individuals how to talk to someone who they believe may be at risk for committing suicide, are not taken.

The problem with engaging in this surface level conversation regarding mental health is it lets institutions such as our healthcare and education system off the hook. A company that raises money is admirable but ultimately is a short-term solution. No amount of money given to a mental health foundation will make fundamental changes needed in how we approach mental health: rather, there should be a focus on demanding accountability from those who work for us: politicians. To ask why mental health has always been seen as lesser important than physical health, and why this stigma seeps into different branches of our life: to ask key questions such as why teachers aren’t adequately trained in accommodating mental illnesses, or why therapy is oftentimes inaccessible to those who are most susceptible to mental illnesses.