A mental health advocate is a person – a regular everyday person – who has suffered from a mental struggle themselves or has a close friend or family member who has struggled and who outwardly supports mental health as it relates to them personally.
The concept of mental health advocacy is relatively new. It was created to promote and protect the basic human rights of anyone affected by mental hardships. Advocates are typically people who have seen the benefits of therapy and who support the cause with volunteerism or by sharing their personal stories to promote awareness and reduce stigmas surrounding mental health.
Being an advocate for mental health is an essential job. There is no need to be a professional or have any form of training; you just have to provide a voice…
This voice can be for yourself if you are dealing with a mental illness directly – this includes speaking up for yourself in regards to your needs, educating yourself and your family about your condition, and working with a therapist on your goals and plans to achieve them.
And the voice can be used for others. There are numerous actions an advocate can take to help reshape the significant structural and attitudinal barriers surrounding mental health as a whole. Dissemination of information, raising of awareness, education, counseling, defending, mediating, and denouncing are all forms of advocacy.
These actions typically fall into three main categories…
A mental health advocate defends and gives support.
An advocate will support individuals with mental conditions to help them be heard, to fight for their needs, and to defend their rights. This includes working with schools, doctors, and other systems/providers to ensure that mental health needs are met.
A mental health advocate is considerate of their loved one’s wishes and views when decisions and plans are being made. And they will work to empower the individual to self-advocate for themselves as well.
Just knowing that you are supportive of your loved one can provide a huge amount of relief – it greatly helps to reduce anxiety and shame, which is a big step in reducing stigmas.
A mental health advocate stays updated.
Although there is no need for professional training for mental health advocacy, it is a good idea to keep in touch with advancements related to the condition and to be aware of any advantages or disadvantages. Being informed on public services and government policies in regards to allowances and programs can be very helpful as well.
When you are the supportive voice for your loved one, knowledge is power and can be used to better support them with whatever speed bumps they may encounter.
A mental health advocate is courageous.
You inspire others when you raise your voice. Speaking out for yourself or others is powerful and it can plant seeds of change within others, but it does indeed take courage.
Many people are not aware of the details of mental illnesses; they have been hidden behind closed doors for ages. When you speak up about it – the struggles, the facts, the treatment options – others become educated as well.
As humans, we are rarely afraid of things we fully comprehend. Since a lot of the stigma surrounding mental health conditions is based on fear and unknowing, simply spreading the word helps to raise mental health into the light – reducing shame, judgment, and discrimination.
Mental health advocacy is crucial and it is as simple as sharing your story for others to hear. You can post about it on social media, you can volunteer for a mentorship program, you can participate in a donation effort for a non-profit mental health organization, or you can just be a supportive friend/relative.
If you or a loved one, such as a child, sibling, parent, partner, or close friend, is affected by mental illness at any stage of life then you have likely already become a mental health advocate.
There is a little hero in all of us!
Sending you light and love,
~ You are worthy. You are capable. You are enough! ~