Let’s talk about performative activism for profit
I, a Bell customer, am appalled by the performative actions taking place every year with the marketing ploy popularly masked as Bell “Let’s Talk” Day. This is a letter that I have written to my service provider about the damage that they are doing to others in order to gain some customers and publicity.
I think it is time we all have a serious conversation about mental health.
With the recent “Let’s Talk” day posts infiltrating all of my social media feeds, I believe everyone needs to understand what Bell’s “Let’s Talk” is really about. In my opinion, it has literally nothing to do with mental health and creating a safe space for people to be open about their struggles, and everything to do with this company gaining popularity, media coverage, and profit.
I would like to begin by saying that the original idea behind this initiative may have been kind-hearted and not ill-willed at all, yet your company’s failure to acknowledge the expressions of disappointment from the greater nation shows that your main focus is not the mental health of Canadians, but rather the opportunity to plaster your logo over the faces of those wanting to share their mental health journeys.
As much as I would like to remind you of the many news stories published in 2017 on your company’s past and present employees coming forward about their unannounced termination and/or struggles working within your company, I will not. I think it is more important to look forward and hope that you will finally listen to the thousands of Canadians asking you to take a step back and work on providing your employees with a safe workplace before deeming yourself the face of mental health awareness across Canada.
I would like to pose this question to you: your company prides itself on the grand donations given every year to mental health initiatives, but do you ever think about the people who are struggling and need to talk but do not have access to these initiatives? You have branded this day as “Let’s Talk,” but are you really creating a safe space for people to talk if your services are astronomically expensive, thus making it impossible for some people to have access to these initiatives? Or by choosing to script Michael Bublé for your promotion video instead of creating a video of Canadians talking about their experiences with mental health so it will get more views?
When people share the video of Michael Bublé, they are just sharing a video of Michael Bublé, a figure who is already all over the internet. Why did you choose him as your spokesperson this year? Were there no Canadians who are struggling with mental health issues during this trying time of a global pandemic who you could have offered your platform to where they could promote their stories?
By choosing celebrities as spokespeople for such issues, it is obvious to me that you are trying to sell something. I see this in the Aveeno commercial with Jennifer Aniston, who has great skin. I see this in the Pantene commercial starring Selena Gomez, who has beautiful hair. I see this in the Bubly Super Bowl commercial starring the man himself, Michael Bublé. Each of these commercials are very similar as they have a famous face – one that people want to follow and be like – promoting a product that the celebrities themselves are most likely not using as they have all the money in the world to buy the most high-end products. When discussing mental health you shouldn’t be trying to sell something, but rather be raising awareness.
The best way to learn and end stigma is to hear the story of someone like you who is struggling with something you don’t struggle with. When I look at Michael Bublé I see someone who has the money for therapy, I see someone who can afford the astronomical data rates, I see someone not like me and not like anyone I know. I see a person of great privilege. So, who are you really trying to sell your product to? Who are you really trying to help?
As I begin to conclude this message, I leave you with a suggestion for future years.
Use the platform that you have built, but pivot. Pivot to something that Canadians want to be a part of. Pivot to something that is relatable. I encourage you to look inward and reflect upon what you are really doing for your own employees and their families. Reflect upon what you are doing for your customers in times of need.
Don’t encourage people to share your post under the guise of donating 5 cents per share; just donate the money that you would like to and put the time and effort into creating resources and connecting with Canadians rather than casting a famous face or developing Instagram, Facebook, Snapchat, and TikTok templates.
I appreciate you for the idea, but I am disappointed with the angle you have chosen to take for the last number of years. Mental health matters, and if you agree with that statement, make it known to Canadians. I look forward to 2022, and truly hope that you use these next 11 months to listen to others and their needs rather than your own.
The journey to ending stigma surrounding mental health begins with validating people’s experiences – I encourage you to listen, learn, and act accordingly.
Reese Estwick (She/Her)
5-Year Bell Customer