I have been asked a few times through Twitter and emails what it takes to become an advocate for mental health. I am an advocate for mental health and the elimination of stigma against mental illness, so of course I am willing to share my insight on how to become one.
Ask Yourself Why
Why do you want to be an advocate? Whatever your answer is should help motivate you to do it for the right reasons. I want to be an advocate because I have a mental illness and I know how difficult it is to live with. You might have the same reasons, or someone close to you suffers from mental illness. Knowing why you want to do it, and making sure it’s for right reasons, will make you a better advocate.
Where Does Your Passion Lie
Are you focused on fighting for the end of stigma? Do you want to educate other’s about your own mental illness? Do you want to fight for better health care for mental health? It’s great to want to do everything, but I don’t think the best advocates try to do everything. The best advocates focus their attention on what is most important to them, and support other advocates who speak out on the other issues and know more about them. For example, my focuses are on education and ending stigma, and I don’t put my own voice towards health care because it’s not my specialty. But I will gladly support a voice for health care, and help that person advocate.
What Makes You Qualified
I was asked on Twitter what qualifications there are to be a mental health advocate, and whether I got a degree or certificate for it. To e honest, I was actually pretty confused with this question, because I don’t have a official piece of paper that tells me I am qualified to be a mental health advocate. My qualification to be an advocate comes from my personal experience with mental illness and my willingness to be a voice for those who choose to stay silent. If you have the experience, do the research, and have the passion to speak out, you are qualified to be a mental health advocate.
Find Your Platform
Advocates are not silent, and we all have our own platforms to speak out on. Obviously, mine is blogging and social media. However, there are so many different ways to speak out. Whether it’s blogging or podcasting or public speaking or video, find what is the best way for you to use your voice.
Do Your Research
I may use my personal experience as the major foundation for my advocacy, but that’s not the only thing I use to support. I have done my research, looked at the statistics, done enough reading to make my eyes glaze over, but that research is important to support it all. BUT I will say that research shouldn’t outshine personal experience and stories. You can’t take the human out of the issue, so don’t remove them from the conversation.
How do you advocate for a cause? Let me know with a comment!