Mental illness is a serious issue; 1 in 5 Canadians are diagnosed with a mental illness. While research shows that depression is “the leading cause of disability worldwide” (World Health Organization, 2015), it is becoming increasingly important to raise awareness and decrease the stigma surrounding all forms of mental illness.

“For the longest time, we pretended it [mental illness] didn’t exist,”said Isabelle Racicot. “So many people left this world because we didn’t take care of them.”

Isabelle Racicot

Isabelle Racicot walking the blue carpet in a stunning all-black outfit perfected with bright pink pumps.

Racicot hosted her first ever Bell Centre event last night, as the second edition of the Bal des Lumières unfolded. The event, presented by Bell in collaboration with the Douglas Mental Health University Institute Foundation, the Mental Illness Foundation , and the Fondation de l’Institut universitaire en santé mentale de Montréal, aims to raise money in order to fund research and develop treatments for individuals suffering from mental illness.

“We have to let people know who suffer from mental illness that it’s ok, and you need to talk about,” said Racicot. “We’re embracing that with you and we’re just gonna try and help. We all know somebody if we’re not personally affected by it, so its extrmemly important for us to tackle that problem.”

The silent auction, comprising of jewellery and sports memorabilia, was a great success. By the end of the night, 1.4 million dollars had been amassed, surpassing the 1.1 million raised for the first edition of the event in 2013.

Prior to the actual event, local culture, sports and business celebrities were treated to cocktails and hors-d’oeuvres.

Bal des Lumieres

Bartenders pouring wine for pre-event festivities.

Many walked the blue carpet, the women posing for pictures in their magnificent gowns and the men in their neat-tailored suits. With a two photobooths and an ice bar, everyone was chipper and united for one very important cause.

Once everyone was seated into their chairs on the boarded ice Bell Centre ice, Montreal Canadiens owner Geoff Molson, Montreal mayor Denis Coderre, and the Minister of Health and Social Services Gaetan Barrette opened the night off with speeches highlighting the importance of mental health.

Artistic director Denis Bouchard orchestrated the festivities of the night, as singer Brigitte M., local illusionist Luc Langevin and acrobat Dominic Lacasse (known as the “human flag”) provided entertainment to incredibly well-fed crowd, who were treated to a delicious three-course meal. Before the music band Diva5 kickstarted the dancefloor, the announcement of the money amassed was made. The crowd couldn’t be any happier or more proud. Clearly a cause dear to the hearts of many.

“If you go back 10-15 years ago, nobody really talked about that much,” said former Montreal Canadiens legend Guy Lafleur. “You didn’t have as many events to raise money, or research, or help. I think it’s just fantastic. I’m glad to be part of that.”