It’s Bell Let’s Talk Day tomorrow. Across the country, people will be tweeting #BellLetsTalk in support of mental health. Each tweet raises 5 cents towards funding for mental health research and program development. To date, they have committed over 66 million dollars.
Beyond fundraising, the initiative has done great work in helping challenge the stigma surrounding mental health. Through encouraging people to talk about their mental illness, they are helping to work towards a society where it’s “normal” to talk about mental health issues.
Most people probably don’t think twice about telling their co-worker they have a headache. You can be sure that most people DO have a difficult time sharing they experience a mental health issue. Understandably, people are scared of sharing their experiences with mental health. Stigma acts as a barrier to what those people need the most – human connection and a support network.
The Bell Let’s Talk initiative comes at a good time. This upcoming weekend, Edmonton will have the opportunity to listen to stories and experiences of LGBTQ youth in relation to the importance of gay/straight alliances. As you’re aware, the issue of GSAs has been in the media lately. This past fall, Laurie Blakeman proposed Bill 202. If Bill 202 was passed, it would require school boards to allow gay-straight alliances if requested by students. Bill 202 was tabled, and Bill 10 was proposed by the PC party. Bill 10 essentially would require a student to engage in “legal recourse” in the event that their school board denied a request for a GSA. This would undeniably tie up youth in a red-tape ridden legal struggle. It also sends a strong message that the youth voice does not matter.
Why are GSAs relevant to the #BellLetsTalk conversation?
Because LGBTQ youth are at a significantly higher risk of experiencing verbal and physical violence at the hands of their own classmates.
Because LGBTQ youth experience higher rates of mental health issues.
Because LGBTQ youth are 3 times more likely attempt suicide.
Because GSAs have been proven to help counteract these sad realities of LGBTQ youth.
GSAs have been shown to help LGBTQ youth feel safer, be less likely to be bullied by fellow students, have more supportive adults in their lives, and indicate that their teachers treat them with more respect. You can read more about their benefits here
GSAs provide a safe environment for all students to talk. To share their experiences. To receive support from one another. To work towards creating a school environment that is conducive to good mental health for everyone.
If you care about the #BellLetsTalk conversation, you care about the #GSAyeg conversation.
Just today, Edmonton City Council voted unanimously to support the efforts of the Edmonton City Youth Council to share their concerns with Bill 10. We need to stand behind them and demonstrate loud and clear that Edmonton is a compassionate city that supports human rights and values inclusion.
If you can, please try to attend the event this Saturday January 31 at 3 pm at the Winspear Centre. The event is titled “We Are Listening – Sparking Public Conversation on Gay/Straight Alliance”.
You can sign up to attend here.
You can also tune in to the live stream of the event here
If you can’t attend, you can help by sharing the event with your networks. Tweet your messages of support or thoughts about GSAs using the #GSAyeg hashtag.
You can also help by letting me know if you know any youth who would like to share their experiences at the event.
“I’m no longer accepting things I cannot change. I’m changing things I cannot accept.”
– Angela Davis.