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How To Be A Mental Health Advocate?

Good mental health is essential to leading a happy and meaningful life. It affects our emotional well-being, cognitive ability, and personal and interpersonal relationships. According to WHO, depression is a leading cause of disability and affects 5% of adults globally.

Taking your mental health seriously means protecting yourself and offering support to others in case of a mental health crisis.
In recent years, mental health awareness has helped remove the stigma surrounding mental health conditions. Today, more people are willing to talk about their mental health struggles and advocate for mental health rights.

This helps debunk myths surrounding mental health conditions and shatters stereotypes, often preventing people from seeking help. Mental health advocates offer a glimmer of hope to those suffering that there is light at the end of the tunnel.
If you’re considering becoming a mental health advocate, find out everything about it in this blog post.

What Is A Mental Health Advocate?

An advocate refers to any person who speaks on a specific cause on behalf of other people or a group of people. A mental health advocate raises their voice in support of mental health to help those suffering from mental health conditions.
A mental health advocate has worked on their mental health and regained control of their mind to lead a healthy life. They are open and willing to share their mental health journey to benefit others suffering through the same challenges.
Mental health advocates speak up to educate their communities on stigmas and myths surrounding mental health and push for better mental health care facilities and treatment plans.

A mental health advocate can also offer support in the form of advice regarding diagnosis or emotional support to help the person cope with it better. As they can better understand the suffering, they can better stand up for those currently going through the same.

History of Mental Health Advocacy

To understand mental health advocacy let’s turn to history. Mental health advocate, as a term, has only become popular in the last 20 years or so. However, the first practical signs of mental health advocacy can be traced to the 19th century when Dorothea Dix, an activist, started challenging the norms in the medical field and started becoming a voice for the mentally ill.
Later in 1909, the National Committee for Mental Hygiene was formed by a former mental patient known as the National Mental Health Association.

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Qualities to Become a Mental Health Advocate

What qualities can help you become a good mental health advocate? We shed light on some qualities that are found common among mental health advocates. These help mental health advocates become the best source of comfort for others. These include:

  • Being patient while communicating with others and talking about your own experiences
  • Being honest in sharing information related to personal experience and mental health conditions
  • Be respectful of other people’s lifestyles, beliefs, and identities
  • Practice active listening with the person they are supporting and asking open questions
  • Suggest and explore mental health approaches to improve mental health

Types Of Mental Health Advocates

Anyone willing to educate themselves and others can become a mental health advocate. You may also be willing to work on your mental health, understand your triggers and share your journey to advocate for others. Nevertheless, there can be different types of mental health advocates, such as:

  • Someone who advocates for a mental condition or addiction their loved one is suffering from
  • Individuals offering support to those experiencing trauma after violence, sexual assault, or natural disaster
  • Someone in the workplace ensuring access to helpful resources to access mental health services
  • Any individual helping to pass the legislation for better access to mental health services

Is a Mental Health Advocate The Same As An Activist?

Mental health advocacy is often interchanged with activism, and while there may be similarities between the two, they are not the same.

Activism is an action-focused effort involving partaking activities to lead change on controversial topics. These activities can include boycotts, petitions, or public demonstrations to bring about social change.

Advocacy, on the other hand, focuses on speaking on behalf of a cause or publicly representing a group of people.
We can say that activists can be advocates for their cause but most advocates may not necessarily be activists.

Is a Mental Health Advocate The Same As A Mentor?

People also often confuse a mental health advocate with a mentor because both work towards helping people in difficulty. However, some important differences should be pointed out.

As mentioned earlier, advocates for mental health only help people with mental health problems and guide or support them with the right mental health resources.

On the other hand, mentors work over an extended period to offer support and guidance to help the person succeed. They work on skill-building and can focus on multiple things that need improvements, such as social interactions or career development.

6 Fantastic Ways to Become a Mental Health Advocate

There isn’t a specific criterion to become a mental health advocate. You don’t need specific credentials to help those with mental health-related concerns. However, to become a mental health advocate, you should have a strong desire to help them.
There are several ways to become a mental health advocate, and these can include any of the following:

1. Work or Volunteer with an Organization

To become a mental health advocate, you can start working with a private or nonprofit organization. You can apply to organizations that help people with trauma, addiction, or other mental illness.

You can find volunteer opportunities in these organizations or any other mental health center. This can give you an insight into how to better advocate for mental health conditions and how the system works.

2. Get Involved in the Mental Health Community

If you want to become a mental health advocate, you can start getting involved in online and offline mental health communities. Participate in mental health events and programs in your area and start talking to people in your community and on online forums about mental health to raise awareness.

There are online platforms where you can share your advice and guide people about mental health. An advantage of advocating for mental health on these forums is that you can also post anonymously, which makes it easier to share your personal story and advice if you are still uncomfortable sharing it.

3. Start a Mental Health Blog

You can use your knowledge and experience of mental health to begin a blog and educate people on mental health issues. As a mental health advocate, you can find opportunities to contribute posts to established mental health blogs. This can help get your voice across to more people and form a community.

If you don’t wish to begin your own mental health blog, you can regularly share content from other sources on your social media accounts. Facebook and Twitter are great starting points to raise awareness and begin a community.

You can search for relevant content in the mental health niche, including short videos, mental health statistics, motivational quotes, and imagery that can help educate people and raise awareness for mental health.

4. Advocate through Fundraising

Fundraising for mental health is another way to become a mental health advocate. Whether you drive the effort yourself or collaborate with an organization, mental health requires awareness and funds.

If you are passionate, you can use that passion to rally people to donate to a cause. The amount collected from fundraising can sponsor treatments for mental health patients, or you can donate that money to a mental health center to improve their services and outreach.

5. Become a Self-Advocate

Sharing your own experience with others can be helpful and relatable for others to understand what it is like living with a mental health condition. When you have personally experienced something yourself, talking about it can come naturally to you.
Sharing your story with others can be empowering and gives insight and perspective. It also helps open up ways for others who are struggling and encourages them to seek treatment.

6. Speak Up and Educate your Loved Ones

Find opportunities to speak about mental health and educate your friends and family where you can. As a mental health advocate, it is important that you try to fight the stigma any chance you get with your loved ones.

Oftentimes, people are just ignorant or unaware, and simply talking about it with facts can help put things in perspective for them. If you can share authentic resources and research on mental health, it can further help your cause.

4 Benefits of Mental Health Advocates to the Community

Becoming a mental health advocate comes with its challenges, but mental health advocates offer many benefits to the communities and organizations they serve. It can be in any capacity, but the impact can be widespread. Here are a few benefits of mental health advocacy:

1. Gives Perspective

Mental health advocates give perspective to those suffering from mental health conditions in understanding their own situation. They can understand whether their symptoms are on the serious end of the spectrum and if they should seek professional help.

2. Offer Hope

When mental health advocates rally for the cause and talk from personal experience, they give hope and encouragement to those suffering from the same. A mental health advocate can share their advice regarding what worked for them or didn’t, helping others follow their path.

3. Remove Stigma Surrounding Mental Health

Mental health advocates help remove the stigma surrounding mental illnesses and help people understand the seriousness of the condition. They make people see that treatment is possible and just as helpful as other medical illnesses.

4. Direct Towards Relevant Resources

Through the efforts that mental health advocates make in their communities, both online and offline, they help direct those in need towards relevant and useful mental health resources. These could be articles, blogs, mental health practitioners, or centers that help treat mental health conditions.

Often, those with mental health conditions do not know where to turn when they need help. By raising their voice, mental health advocates make these resources more accessible and widespread to become easily accessible to those in need.

Potential Risks in Becoming a Mental Health Advocate

While there are many benefits to becoming a mental health advocate, some areas can create frustration. It is important to be aware of the potential risk involved in becoming a mental health advocate to avoid frustration and disappointment.
There is a lot of responsibility on advocates to raise awareness and educate people on mental health conditions. However, it can become overwhelming at times. It is important to know that seeking help from other advocates with more experience is okay.

Without seeking help or not having a support system of your own, you can quickly lead yourself to burnout, which can become a hurdle in performing your duties as a mental health advocate.
Another thing to keep in mind is that you may not be able to help everyone you come across, and that is okay. As a mental health advocate, you should offer help, support, and guidance to those seeking it, but there will be people who will not choose to accept your help.

As a mental health advocate, self-care is critical. When you can protect yourself, you are better able to help others.

What Inspired Me To Become A Mental Health Advocate?

Everybody starts somewhere, and often, their experience leaves them with a burning desire to help others. Finding myself struggling with mental health for a long time, I eventually buckled up and decided I needed to defeat it for my own well-being.
Once I could get my mental health on track, the experience opened my eyes. I saw the stigma surrounding it and how difficult it can be to pull yourself out of a dark place. In my despair, the Bible was my guide and a proper mental health diagnosis and treatment.

Having suffered myself and seeing others suffer due to mental health stigma, I learned that it often prevents people from seeking professional help. Once I recovered, I realized I needed to become a source of hope and inspiration for others suffering through the same.

My personal experience became my inspiration to become a mental health advocate and a voice for those that were yet to speak up for themselves. I realized how I could use my experience to help others come out of the dark tunnel into the light.
By the time I pulled myself together again, I had gathered enough mental health resources, guides, and experience that I knew I needed to send the elevator back to help others. I could not turn a blind eye to those suffering from what I had once suffered.
Mental health is a slippery slope wherein suffering people can quickly spiral downwards. With mental health advocates becoming their inspiration, voice, and hope, I believe they can help them recover and lead healthy lives.

4 Tips to Become a Mental Health Advocate

Becoming a mental health advocate can be challenging, and you may face some hurdles. However, if you are passionate about the cause, you can push through. Here are some tips to help you manage better as a mental health advocate:

mental-health-advocate

1. Be Patient

As a mental health advocate, you need to be patient with yourself and others. Whatever work you do, big or small, you may not see instant results or impact. However, making consistent efforts will be well worth it in the end.

2. Educate Yourself

Learning never stops, and it shouldn’t. As a mental health advocate, keep yourself updated with the latest information regarding mental health and relevant resources so that you can fruitfully guide people. You are only as good as the knowledge you share, and you should be sharing the best educational resources to raise awareness.

3. Seek Help if you need it

Don’t be afraid to seek help when you need it. Whether it is from the community or fellow mental health advocates. You are not alone in this journey, and seeking help and guidance from others can only help you to do your work in a better way. You may face a dead wall somewhere, and in that case, it is okay to seek advice from others working in the same capacity.

4. Don’t Do More than Your Capacity

Helping others is noble but overworking yourself to do it is not smart. To help others, you need first to help yourself. As a mental health advocate, you mustn’t take on any more work that you can’t manage. If you don’t have more time, don’t engage yourself in more initiatives. It is not sustainable in the long run and can lead to burnout.

Wrapping Up

Becoming a voice for others and helping them overcome their mental health challenges is noble by becoming a mental health advocate. However, remember that while you’re trying to help others, don’t forget yourself. Educating yourself is the only way forward to stay relevant and create impact and awareness for mental health.

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