Why I think “#BellLetsTalk” is missing an important point about Mental Health

You may have seen memes of a lion or battle-hardened soldier with the words ‘The Problem With Being Strong Is That Nobody Bothers to Ask.’

I’ve asked

I’ve talked.

I’ve tried.

But it seemed that nobody listened.

It seemed that nobody wanted to hear.


I am a big man; I’ve lived a great life, and I come across as hard and strong.

I’ve led soldiers and emergency responders and been hugely successful.

Yet I have failed.

Failed in relationships, struggled in business and made moral mistakes that sit heavy on my heart.

I was a functioning drunk who drank Rye like it was a cure for alcoholism.

I am pretty sure I have been depressed, and I know I have struggled with my mental health.

I grew up in an environment and served in the Army when you were not sick unless a bone was sticking out of your body.  I understood that mental health issues were a sign of weakness. Motivational posters surrounded me saying: ‘Big boys don’t cry,’ ‘Pain is weakness leaving the body,’ and a visit to the Chaplain or a Counsellor was a black mark on your career.


Such initiatives like ‘#SickNotWeak’ and ‘#BellLetsTalk’ are excellent in destigmatizing mental health issues.

For a child of the ‘60s, it is remarkable that mental health problems are now considered normal and asking for help is the right thing to do.

But where ‘#BellLetsTalk’ misses the mark is that we need to have a complementary imitative called ‘#LetsListen.’

But for many bringing an emotional problem up is hard to do.


In many of my blog posts, I have spoken about my last couple of years at Red Cross. I was struggling in a shifting and changing workplace. I had made a bad hire and was trying to manage an asshole. Years of working in high tension environments were catching up with me. I was leading a giant disaster and working on my Master’s degree.

In short, a lot was going on.

One day I was rushing to a meeting in another city.

While driving, I witnessed a small car get T-boned by a pickup. The vehicle was flipped end for end several times. I stopped to help and saw the driver, a young mother, was dying, the passenger, a Grandmother, was dead.

As bad as the scene was, the worse was finding a toddler in a car seat, not moving and trapped in the back seat. Other good Samaritans and I fought to get into the back seat to help the baby. It seemed to take forever, but we got a door open, the car seat out, and to our giant relief, the baby started crying and was seemingly unharmed.

Police, Fire & EMA came in time and took over the scene, and I carried on as if I were completely normal.


But I wasn’t.

Something switched deep inside of me, and I began to struggle even more with work.

One day I told my boss what had happened, and that was bothering me. All I received for my vulnerability was an unblinking stare.

I never felt so exposed or let down.

That one incident changed my entire relationship with her. She was once a trusted friend and confidant, and now she was someone in authority with whom I had lost trust.

The outcome was preordained the moment that trust was lost.

Eventually, I left or maybe was pushed out of a job I loved and left people I cared for.


There were many times that I reached out when I struggled with emotions and mental health.

I made myself vulnerable by trying to “#BellLetsTalk,” but no one listened.

A relative who told me that everyone hates their job so quit complaining; A boss who betrayed my vulnerability; or a Pastor who didn’t ask that one more question.

And all that accomplished was a guarded fear of opening up again.

So this year, as part of “#BellLetsTalk” let us try harder to ‘#LetsListen.’