Many people who suffer from a mental disorder are afraid or shy to open up about their issues. The fear of rejection, stigmatization, or discrimination stops them from seeking professional help.
The narratives are changing thanks to mental health advocates, and more people with mental disorders are beginning to feel more understood, supported, and heard.
If you’ve always wanted to know how to be a mental health advocate and are passionate about championing the cause, this article will show you how to get started.
Mental Health Advocacy: A Quick Overview
Mental health advocacy promotes the human rights of people with mental illnesses. In other words, the general idea of advocacy for mental health is to reduce discrimination and stigma against those living with some form of mental disorder.
We live in a society where stress-inducing activities and anxiety are on the rise. These factors contribute to mental disorders if there are not addressed on time.
While the above may be true, many people live with mental disorders and deserve all the opportunities available to other healthy individuals.
Think about it this way.
Suppose someone broke their arm; would it be fair to stigmatize them? Of course, not! Mental illness is a problem with the brain, which is a part of the body like an arm or a leg.
It is unfair to discriminate against people with mental illness or mental health condition, just as it is not right to deprive someone of their basic human rights just because they broke their arm.
This is where mental health advocacy and advocates for mental health support come into the picture.
Who Is a Mental Health Advocate?
Figuring out how to be a mental health care advocate starts with understanding what the role is all about.
Put simply, someone who supports people with mental illness is known as a mental health advocate. An advocate creates awareness to reduce the stigma and discrimination associated with mental illness and other mental health challenges.
Advocates support mental health care causes by participating, volunteering, and campaigning at various events.
Some ways advocates play supportive roles include:
- Speaking on behalf of sufferers who don’t have a voice or are too shy to speak up
- Influencing public policy to support marginalized groups
- Educating people in the community about various topics relating to mental health
- Researching mental health-related topics and sharing the findings of the research
- Developing strategies to maximize visibility for people who can’t or won’t speak up
How to Be a Mental Health Advocate
Understandably, the term “advocate” can easily be misconstrued as needing a university degree to be a mental health advocate, but that’s not the case.
While you need proper information on the subject, you don’t need to be a licensed therapist or any special certification to be a mental health advocate. In fact, you might already be assuming the role without realizing it.
The most important “qualification” for the role is passion! You need the enthusiasm to champion the cause of mental health, reduce stigma, and create awareness.
Here are a few ways to get started as a mental health advocate.
Start a Blog or Write for a Mental Health Website
If writing is your thing, you can use the skill to increase awareness by starting a blog around the subject.
Don’t want to start a blog? No worries. You can advocate by contributing original and well-researched posts on the topic to mental health websites. This might be a quicker way to reach a wider audience.
Another way to create awareness about the topic is to leverage the power of social media. Create an account, start a page on your preferred social media platform, and consistently create posts about mental health.
Share Mental Health Media
Not everyone is a blogger or writer, but that doesn’t mean you can’t share news, blog posts, articles, and other media content to increase awareness about mental health.
Thanks to sharing tools on the internet, sharing information is as easy as clicking the share icon on social media or the forward button in emails.
Look for Volunteer Opportunities
Volunteering for a local mental health organization in your area is a great way to have hands-on, real-world experience in advocacy.
Consider looking for volunteering opportunities in nonprofit organizations such as the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). You will get plenty of chances to support people with mental illness in your community if you leverage the platform of an established local private or nonprofit organization.
Participate in Fundraising for Mental Health Causes
Funding is crucial for raising awareness, conducting research, and getting mental health resources.
Participating in activities to raise money for the cause is a good way to be a mental health advocate in your community.
But how do you go about raising funds to support mental health causes?
Here are a few suggestions:
- Start a fundraising campaign on social media like Facebook.
- Participate in a race or walk to raise funds for a nonprofit organization championing the cause of mental health.
Take Steps to Support Mental Health Today
How to be a mental health advocate? Start by speaking up for a loved one, family, friends, and people with a mental illness in your community.
Don’t wait until you have the tools and resources to create a campaign to support mental health and wellness. Neither should you wait until you get the chance to work with your local mental health community before advocating for the cause.
You can take practical steps today to support the cause in the following ways:
- Learn as much as possible about severe mental illness and find creative ways to spread the information
- Speak up if you see someone stigmatizing people with mental health
- Listen non-judgmentally to a family member or friend with mental illness or accompany them to an appointment
- Talk to local leaders if you can about providing more access to mental health services and counseling
You might not have the capacity to create a huge impact right now, but you can start small in any way you can and gradually grow your advocacy efforts with time.