Central Albertans joined with other Canadians on Wednesday to talk openly about mental health. Crystal Carfantan was one of them.
The 40-year-old woman, who grew up in Red Deer, said she was following closely the Bell Let’s Talk day of discussion.
For every Bell Let’s Talk text, call, tweet, Instagram post, Facebook video view and use of a Snapchat geofilter on Wednesday, the company contributes five cents to mental health initiatives. The goals are to help eliminate mental illness stigma, improve access to care, lead by example in workplace health and support research. The Let’s Talk program began in 2010 and by 2020 expects to raise $100 million.
Carfantan said she has bipolar disorder and has suffered from anxiety and depression for many years. For a long time she felt very alone because of the stigma.
“You really felt like you suffered alone, and with Bell Let’s Talk it’s really putting out the message, educating people that it’s not bad to have a mental illness. If someone does want to talk to you, we need to be there for people.”
She said there aren’t a lot of places in Red Deer where someone with a mental illness can just go sit down and talk to somebody about how they feel. She believes that would help reduce addiction and suicide.
“Some psychologists are $180 an hour. Well, there’s a lot of people that can’t afford that.”
Carfantan said she started a Dual Recovery group about a year ago that includes people who are dealing with mental illness and addiction. “Very often mental illness goes with addiction, and vice versa.”
She feels that Red Deer has a ways to go to eliminate the stigma tied to mental illness. She thinks she’s struggled with mental illness probably most of her life, but it wasn’t until her late 20s when she got to a point where “I couldn’t handle it anymore” and she went to hospital.
“I’m doing a lot better.”
Carfantan, who works full time, finds Bell Let’s Talk supportive. “To hear other stories that are similar is comforting. It’s great that we have today, but it shouldn’t be just one day. It should be every day.”
Listening to the stories resulting from Bell Let’s Talk “brought back a lot of feelings and thoughts for myself and my journey with mental illness.”
Some of the high profile Canadians involved in Bell Let’s Talk include Clara Hughes, Howie Mandel, Mary Walsh and Michael Landsberg.
Bell Let’s Talk has a Community Fund that provides grants between $5,000 and $25,000 to projects that improve access to mental health care, and supports and services for people in Canada living with mental illness.