Two Bell Let's Talk ambassadors share personal struggles with addiction
Actress Mary Walsh knew she wanted to do something to raise awareness about mental health issues, when she saw how doctors struggled to treat her friend.
"It was really a friend of mine, who the doctor said to his father, 'We're just throwing a cocktail of drugs at him in the hope that it will work. Because we really don't know what we're doing,'" she told CTV's Canada AM from Halifax on Wednesday.
"And I thought, 'Dear God.'"
Walsh is no stranger to mental health struggles. She has been open about her struggle with alcoholism, and her decision to take control of her life and become sober more than 20 years ago.
Now she's working hard to break down the stigma surrounding mental health issues, as a spokesperson for Bell Let's Talk.
The comedian said the Bell Let's Talk initiative seemed like the "perfect" project to get behind, because it focuses on opening up the dialogue, as well as raising funds.
And while the fundraising for mental health programs and initiatives is "wonderful," she says the focus on lessening the stigma is what really attracted her.
"The more we haul it out of the dark closet, where it's been festering for all these years in shame and guilt, the quicker things will change," she said.
And she's very proud of how Bell Let's Talk has helped to break down the stigma surrounding mental illness.
She recalls the first time she met someone who said the Bell Let's Talk program helped her.
It was a receptionist at the NTV studio in St. John's, who told Walsh that she'd been suffering for depression for years, but only sought help after she saw Olympian Clara Hughes talking about Bell Let's Talk.
"It turned her life around completely," Walsh said.
Walsh, who sometimes travels with Memorial University students to watch theatre shows in England, said she notices that young people in general seem to have gotten the message that being aware of their mental health should be part of their regular health monitoring.
She said it seems that young people tend to think about their mental health in the same way they think about dental health.
"Let's face it, there's only about four inches between the two," Walsh said, pointing out the distance between her mouth and her brain with a laugh.
'The value of talking about your problems'
Former Great Big Sea member Sean McCann is reaching a whole new audience, by speaking out and singing about mental health and addiction.
McCann struggled with alcohol addiction for many years, including his time with Great Big Sea. He said he used drinking as a way to deal with the trauma of child abuse. In 2014, McCann opened up about being sexually abused by his parish priest while growing up in St. John's. He said that priest also introduced him to alcohol.
"I lived with a secret for 32 years and it almost killed me," he told CTV's Canada AM. "And I know firsthand the value of talking about your problems and facing them and not keeping them inside."
He said that since opening up he's taken steps to become sober.
"It wasn't easy but by making those decisions and being a sober person today, I'm able to make good decisions and be present in the world for my family and my wife, and everyone around me," he said. "I have things to make up for and I'm happy to be here finally."
McCann wrote and released a single last year called "You Know I Love You."
He said the song is a reminder that no one is alone, and that it's OK to talk about difficult issues.
"That's the big thing I learned and it changed my life," he said.
During Bell Let's Talk, Bell will donate 5 cents to various mental health initiatives for every tweet that uses the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, every share of the corresponding Facebook image, and every text sent or mobile and long distance call made by a Bell or Bell Aliant customer.