For the past seven years, Bell has promoted mental health awareness by encouraging people to talk about it.

Once a year on Jan. 25, Bell donates five cents for every text, phone call, and conversation on social media with the hashtag #BellLetsTalk to mental health initiatives.

According to the Canadian Mental Health Association, 20 per cent of Canadians will experience a mental illness and all Canadians will be indirectly affected through friends, family, or colleagues.

But mental health is important to consider every day.

According to Franki Harrogate, a mental wellness coach, “Mental illness can be best described as any prolonged mental state which interferes with a person’s typical daily functioning.”

This mental state includes our ability to reason with the world around us, function in our jobs, and interact with others. Mental health issues result from any number or combination of factors, such as genetics, environment, personality, or childhood experiences.

“That said,” Harrogate explained, “environmental factors like workplace bullying, harassment, and/or toxic relationships can exacerbate an otherwise mild condition.”

Harrogate added that “Mental health also has an affect on the immune system…and new research indicates that depression may even be influenced by a decreased immune system, which is thought to influence the type of feedback loop that makes depression an ongoing problem.”

Mental illnesses are treatable and Edmonton has a number of resources. If you need urgent help, call 911 or the Crisis Support Centre distress line at 780.482.HELP (4357). Someone will answer 24 hours a day. Edmonton has locations for free drop-in single session counselling. Intern therapists offer guidance and resources. You can also call 211 for referrals for therapy options and resources.

“Finding a therapist is like finding a good pair of shoes: don’t just go with the first ones you see because they may not fit,” Harrogate said. “Finding a therapist who ‘clicks’ is essential.”

Harrogate advised checking a therapist’s or organization’s website for information about therapeutic orientations, specializations, values, or processes.

“In particular, therapists should explicitly state their education in and experience working with specific groups or issues,” said Harrogate. Many therapists also offer sliding scale fees (lower fees depending on income) upon request. Some organizations, such as The Family Centre, offer lower fees.

“Alberta Health Services will cover some portions of doctor-referred mental health services, and many private plans also usually have a portion of coverage. Check with the necessary organizations to ascertain what you may be able to access,” said Harrogate.

Support is also important, especially in relationships.

“Part of being in a relationship is connecting emotionally with our partners, and mental illness can interfere with that connection, resulting in an interruption of support just when it’s needed,” said Harrogate.

Mark Stefanishyn, a relationship coach, said when in a relationship with someone who has a mental illness, your role is to make them feel safe around you.

“You have to take a step back and be like, ‘OK. Is there anything I’m doing that could be feeding into this problem?’ And if there is, I need to find a way to stop.” He said it’s best to put your needs aside to help the person in need, to an extent.

“Relationships take work. Relationships take energy to run well. If you don’t have the energy to sustain that, it can come crashing down on you all at once,” said Stefanishyn.

He promotes self-care to keep relationships alive.

“You’re not going to have the energy to come home and talk about whatever problem you have and you are just going to let it simmer and build into this pile of resentment,” he said. “Self-care is the act of cultivating the amount of energy you have so you can do things.”

Harrogate agreed. “Remember that you need to put on your own oxygen mask first. It’s impossible to tend to anyone else’s needs when we’ve worked ourselves into the ground.”

Header image: 20 per cent of Canadians will experience a mental illness. | Pixabay


Call 911 in an emergency.

Canadian Mental Health Association: 780.414.6300 (211) is a 24-hour referral line

Crisis Support Centre 24-hour distress line: 780.482.HELP (4357)

Drop-In Single Session Counselling (free): 780.424.6103

For a list of resources, including affordable therapy:, then click Resources for Mental Health – search counselling services & enter city or postal code