#CHHSLetsTalk: High schooler fighting mental health stigma on social media
Published Friday, January 9, 2015 9:09AM EST
A Calgary teen has people around the world talking about mental health, thanks to a social media campaign that started with a challenge to his high school.
Brett Rothery’s goal was to raise $500 when he challenged his Crescent Heights High School to donate five cents to mental health initiatives for every tweet that includes the hashtag #CHHSLetsTalk. After the school agreed to donate up to $500, Rothery put out a call for retweets and saw his hashtag go viral, racking up more than 80,000 tweets and retweets in less than a week.
“It’s created a conversation about something that we’ve had so much attention come towards,” Rothery told CTV Calgary on Thursday.
The campaign has shattered its initial $500 fundraising goal at the school, but private and corporate donations have boosted the funds raised to approximately $10,000, according to Rothery’s Twitter account.
The Calgary-based energy company CSV Midstream Solutions has pledged to donate an additional $5,000 if the number of retweets hits 100,000 by the end of the campaign on Friday night.
“Mental health is definitely something that hits close to home for a lot of us here at CSV,” said company spokesperson Kolby Meyers. “So we wanted to help spread awareness that mental health is something that is important to talk about, and that it’s OK to talk about.”
All funds raised by Rothery’s campaign will go to the Calgary chapter of the Canadian Mental Health Association.
Rothery is a constant presence on Twitter, retweeting stories from his supporters and offering words of encouragement to battle the stigma surrounding mental health.
But his grassroots movement has not been without controversy.
Canadian actor William Shatner questioned the campaign’s legitimacy on Wednesday when a Rothery supporter asked him to promote #CHHSLetsTalk on Twitter. Shatner called the campaign a ‘copycat’ of Bell Let’s Talk, an annual mental health campaign by CTV’s parent company that also raises money for national charities through #BellLetsTalk retweets.
Bell Let’s Talk Day will be on Jan. 28 this year.
The Bell Canada #letstalk day happens on the 28th of January. I am going to wait for that as it helps raise awareness AND money.— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) January 6, 2015
Shatner came under fire from Rothery’s supporters and later tweeted a series of messages defending his position. The former ‘Star Trek’ actor said he was concerned the campaign wouldn’t be effective past its initial $500 goal, and he was skeptical about its legitimacy.
“I was skeptical, someone showed me an article that said the funds were exhausted and I decided I would wait until 1/28 so more money could be raised at that time,” Shatner said on Twitter.
But Shatner and Rothery say they’ve come to an understanding, and there’s no bad blood between them over the campaign.
“I totally understand where he is coming from,” Rothery said. “I understand where he is coming from, checking the validity of our campaign, and I 100 per cent agree with what he said.”
Shatner congratulated Rothery on his campaign on Wednesday, and Rothery followed up the following day by asking his supporters to stop attacking the actor on Twitter.
.@BrettRothery I congratulate you for being clever in finding a way to both raise money & awareness of mental health issues.— William Shatner (@WilliamShatner) January 7, 2015
Everyone please get off of Mr. Shatner's back. He and I have come to a resolve and wish to leave things behind us. #CHHSLetsTalk— Brett Rothery (@BrettRothery) January 8, 2015
One in five Canadians will experience a form of mental illness at some point in their life, according to the Canadian Institute of Health Research.
With files from CTV Calgary