This is probably my favourite selfie of 2016. According to my phone, I took this at 6:04am on Saturday, May 14th. I was standing in the middle of Maple Leaf Square, in the rain, and I hadn’t slept in over 24 hours. So why do I love this picture so much?
2016 was my first time participating in CAMH’s fundraising initiative, One Brave Night for Mental Health. The premise is simple: participants reach out to their community to raise funds for mental health research, stay up all night on the designated day, and post #OneBraveSelfie at sunrise to commemorate the effort.
I hesitated for a long time before signing up. I had never done any fundraising before, and for my efforts to be successful, I would have to disclose my struggle with depression and anxiety prominently on social media. I was comfortable with sharing this with my friends in-person, but the idea of shouting it from the Facebook rooftops was terrifying.
As I debated whether or not to participate, I kept thinking about my previous experience with social media and mental health: Bell Let’s Talk Day, a yearly event during which Bell donates 5¢ towards mental health initiatives in Canada by counting texts, calls, tweets, Instagram posts, Facebook video views and Snapchat geofilter usage (new this year!).
To be clear, I’m not connected to Bell in any way. I don’t use Bell as my cell phone service provider. But I do use social media a LOT, and the idea of contributing to mental health research appeals to me, so every year on Bell Let’s Talk Day I take the opportunity to tweet as much as possible, mostly about mental health statistics and ways to decrease stigma. It’s a great way to broach the conversation about mental health and participate in an effort that seems to be making a difference.
It was a good start, but it was time to get personal, so I signed up for One Brave Night 2016 and posted about it on Facebook before I had the chance to change my mind. To my surprise, the support I got was overwhelming — I got so much love from friends near and far, and I raised over $800 for CAMH research initiatives. Staying up all night was tough, but I was joined by a dear friend and we spent the whole night eating brownies and Skyping with our friend in Vancouver. I know the funds I raised will make a difference, and I’m really proud of that accomplishment.
Best of all, it helped me realize that sharing my personal stories on social media wasn’t as scary as it seemed. I stopped worrying about whether to post articles and thoughts about mental health issues and just posted them without worrying about what others might think of me. This in turn led to great conversations with friends, acquaintances, and even my parents about the difficulties I face due to mental illness.
Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day, and I plan to use it to the fullest in order to raise as much money as I can and continue the conversation about mental health. It’s so easy to get involved! Here’s how:
Twitter: Each time you tweet on January 25 using #BellLetsTalk, Bell will donate 5¢ more to mental health initiatives. Make sure to follow me @SarahIsrael to see what I’m tweeting about!
Instagram: Each time you post on January 25 using #BellLetsTalk, Bell will donate 5¢ to mental health initiatives. Add me on Instagram (@SarahI) to follow along.
Snapchat: Each time you send a snap using the Bell Let’s Talk geofilter on January 25, Bell will donate 5¢ to mental health initiatives.
Facebook: Head to the Bell Let’s Talk Facebook page and watch their video on January 25, and Bell will donate 5¢ more to mental health initiatives.
If you’re a Bell customer, Bell will donate 5¢ to mental health initiatives for every call you make and every text message you send (iMessage unfortunately doesn’t count).
I’ll also be blogging about mental health throughout the day, so stay tuned for more as the day goes on. And if you’ve read this far, here are a few more pictures from our #OneBraveNight: