Well, by definition the word advocate is a verb…an action word. It means “to speak or write in favor of; support or urge by argument; recommend publicly”. It goes on further to describe a person who says they are an advocate. It says “a person who speaks or writes in support or defense of a person, cause, etc”. Yes, I realize my teacher side just came out, but it had to. When you call yourself an advocate of a cause, like mental illness and suicide prevention, you can’t just sit back and regurgitate some pre-written email or letter that an organization wants you send to your representatives. It needs to come from you. It needs to come from the heart. It needs to be original.
I’m not condemning anyone who chooses this route. I did it myself, but I also used it as a learning experience for when I stepped out on my own. Some of you may have read my last blog about HR3717. It has some good points in it, but it is very detrimental to the mental health community. I’ve seen many people speaking out against it on some of the boards I belong to. Yet, when I ask for help, you could hear a pin drop. So that brings up the question of “What is a Mental Health Advocate?”.
Is it someone who blogs about it? Well, some might argue yes. I would say maybe. It depends on who that blog is reaching and how effective it is at raising awareness and advocate support. My blog? I would say not really advocacy. I try sometimes, but people don’t want to read those. Why am I posing this question now? Because I’m fed up! I’m fed up about hearing people complain about the system and then not striking when they are given the chance to do something about it. It’s like complaining about the president when you didn’t vote in the election.
Is it someone who shares their story? Well, that depends as well. I’ve shared my story within the mental health and suicide prevention community to thousands of people. I wouldn’t call this advocacy. I’d call it more giving insight and (hopefully) giving hope. I’ve shared my story with over 100 members of Congress. I call this advocacy. This is putting a real face to a real illness for legislators that previously had no clue. It’s opening eyes. Will it do any good? I don’t know, but I have to try.
Is it someone who’s goes into their community and tries to educate? I would say yes, that is advocating. This ties into the previous description. Sharing your story and being open about mental illness with people who don’t know is HUGE. It’s scary sometimes, but can be so rewarding.
I’m no expert and I figure I’ll probably lose a few (if not more) readers over this, but we can’t sit back and let Congress make and pass laws about mental illness when they are truly not informed. We are the only ones that can do that. If HR3717 passes, I will be very worried for the state of mental health care in our country. It’s not that I’m trying to defeat it. I just want to help them change it so that it doesn’t alienate us so much. So this is my last plea. If you would like to join with me and help, please let me know. I have the bill summary (as the original is about 100 pages long) and a list of emails. It’s time to make a stand and make a difference.
Thank you for reading…I hope you will continue to do so. 🙂