Mental health advocates are people who bring a positive message to people living with mental health conditions and their families. Within this broad definition, there are a number of different roles which an advocate might perform, as well as many different types of people who may be (sometimes unknowingly) acting as powerful mental health advocates.
Here we consider various activities that fall under the mental health advocate umbrella, as well as who might begin advocating and in what areas advocacy can be helpful.
Common mental health advocate roles
There are several common advocacy roles, including:
- Sharing a positive mental health story. For many people, simply hearing the story of a fellow mental health sufferer who managed to overcome their problems can be enormously inspiring and empowering.
- Facilitating direct support. From running online forums to provide a non-judgmental, empowering environment through to organising social activities to combat loneliness, there are many advocates providing services that make a difference.
- Taking charge of your own care: acting as your own advocate by ensuring that your medical care is in line with your aspirations, values and goals is arguably the most important piece of advocacy work you’ll ever do! Research shows that empowered patients have better outcomes: self-advocacy is good for your mental health!
- Educating and mentoring: raising awareness of mental health issues and acting as a role model for others can both make a positive difference.
Who can advocate?
The short answer is that anybody who has a positive message to share regarding mental health has the capacity to advocate. Advocates need not necessarily suffer from mental health issues: allies can also advocate, as well as sufferers.
How can I become involved?
If you have a cause related to mental health that you’re passionate about, there’s an advocacy role out there for you! There is no “right” way to be an advocate. From tips on self-care through to sharing your story, empowering others, being an empowering force for employees in your HR department or even completing some fundraising to provide mental health services, advocacy is multi-faceted but always with positive intent.
Think seriously about becoming a mental health advocate today.