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URSU's VP of external affairs, Daniella Zemlak, wears a jersey signed by Theo Fleury during "Pop the Stigma" week. Photo by Rebekah Lesko.

One in five Canadians will experience mental illness at some point in their lives, according to the Canadian Institute of Health Research.

 

However, 27 per cent of Canadians are fearful of being around people who suffer from serious mental illness, according to the Canadian Medical Association.

 

Dr. Kent Klippenstine, manager at the University of Regina’s counselling services, believes simply because mental illness “is not as outwardly obvious," it doesn’t lessen its severity. “Mental illness is an illness. It’s no different than a broken arm, cancer or anything like that. The only thing is, a lot of it’s not visible,” said Klippenstine. “A lot of people, I think, don’t understand unless they’ve gone through or have someone close to them go through mental illness. They don’t understand how severe it is.”

           

“We’re not just going to say it’s a problem, but try to create solutions,” Klippenstine added.

           

Bell Canada is hoping to continue the discussion about mental health awareness by using social media. On Jan. 28, the telecommunications company will launch its fifth annual Bell Let’s Talk Day. Bell will donate five cents to Canadian mental health services for each Facebook share that uses the Bell Let's Talk Day image and each tweet hashtagged #BellLetsTalk on Twitter. For Bell Canada and Bell Aliant customers, all text messages and wireless and long distance calls will also each contribute a nickel.

           

In 2014, Canadians responded with a total 109,451,718 messages, raising $5,472,585.90. Bell committed an original donation of $50 million. With four Bell Let’s Talk days, the total donation stands at $67.5 million for mental health initiatives in Canada.

           

Another attempt to bring awareness occurred last November, when the University of Regina hosted “Pop the Stigma.” The campaign was the first mental wellness week for the U of R, with the assigned hashtag, #popthestigma. The week included yoga classes, a dog therapy room and ended with presentations by Kirstin Kuka, Paige Kezima and former NHL player Theo Fleury.

           

The CMA says two in three people suffer in silence fearing judgment and rejection, but Kezima told her personal story to a crowd of approximately 300. After she “grew up not talking about it,” Kezima is now using her voice.

           

“I don’t want people to go through that, because it was really years of unnecessary suffering that could have been dealt with,” said Kezima.

           

The “Pop the Stigma” campaign was directed by Daniella Zemlak, the University of Regina Students' Union vice-president of external affairs. When it comes to mental illness, Zemlak believes “we are so afraid to tell people and ask for help.”

           

Zemlak said URSU raised around $10,000, for a fund that will reimburse students who require off-campus emergency counselling.

           

“Mental health issues, however you do it, whether it’s a day, a week, a month, I don’t care, it just needs to be talked about. The conversation needs to stay open,” Zemlak said.

           

Join the conversation at #BellLetsTalk and #PoptheStigma.