By Chad Ingram
Today is Bell Let’s Talk Day an annual fundraising campaign by the telecommunications leviathan where five cents is donated to mental health programming each time someone makes a social media post using the campaign’s hashtag. Last year the campaign raised some $100 million and it’s nice that a multi-billion-dollar entity has such a campaign in the first place. Certainly it’s not compelled to. There’s also been criticism lobbed at the campaign over the years including that it essentially amounts to self-promotion through the exploitation of those suffering mental illness and with questions around the degree that corporate culture in general has contributed to what experts are repeatedly calling a global mental health crisis.
According to the World Health Organization globally some 450 million people are experiencing mental health disorders about 300 million of them suffering some form of depression the latter figure equivalent to nearly 4.5 per cent of the world’s population. According to the Canadian Mental Health Association in Canada one in two adults will have at least one bout with a mental disorder before they reach the age of 40 one in five adults is having problems with their mental health at any given time and nearly one in 10 will experience major depression during their lifetime.
While campaigns such as Bell Let’s Talk Day have helped lessen stigma and open discussions around the topic of mental health the scope of the problem is so vast that the only real solution can come from government and deeper societal change in general.
Theories abound as to the cause of rising rates of depression especially among young adults or “millennials” where rates seem to be increasing quicker than with other age groups. Some suggest that digital technology and in particular social media may play a role as it can be socially isolating but also create a platform where people can curate artificially perfect lives that create an unobtainable standard. It’s also been suggested that fully understanding the implications of climate change can cause depression. Millennials are often entering a low-paying and precious workforce with high loads of student debt and maybe for some the prospect of spending decades in highly pressurized work environments within a meaningless capitalist culture that is indifferent to their existence is just not all that appealing to begin with.
To that end corporations and governments around the world might want to pay attention to what’s happening in New Zealand. In a successful experiment that’s been ongoing for a couple of years now companies are switching to four-day work weeks paying employees the same amount as their previous five days totalled. The results have been that workers are happier and therefore more productive often achieving more in four days than they previously were in five.
Last year New Zealand’s government introduced a budget that it heralded as prioritizing well-being over endless economic growth with a huge bolstering of funding for mental health particularly to address depression and anxiety the two most common mood disorders.
This is the kind of culture shift that is required on a global scale if the world’s mental health crisis is really to be dealt with sufficiently.