(DailyDig.com) – Mental health is an issue near and dear to many: as many as one in every five American adults has to contend with a mental health issue every year, per the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI). In addition to that, many have lifelong mental health struggles: half of lifetime mental health illnesses present prior to age 14. In the past few years, life has been tough, with many broad factors affecting the mental health and wellbeing of us all. Because of this, the work you can do as a mental health advocate is especially important.
What Is the Role of a Mental Health Advocate?
Mental health advocates offer support for people who have mental illnesses. Mental health advocates work formally through volunteer programs, but there are also things you can do in your everyday life to be an advocate for mental health. If you’re passionate about mental health advocacy, here are some steps you can take to help.
7 Ways You Can Be a Mental Health Advocate
You can be a mental health advocate without obtaining any degrees, though working with some organizations will require volunteer training. Be aware of the necessity to help more than harm, and get ready to speak up:
- Share your mental health story. If you feel comfortable sharing your own experience, others will feel heard and validated. By sharing one story on a social media platform like Facebook, you could affect many, even if your friends never tell you. According to NAMI, you can share your story in blogs, social media, speaking engagements, or through other types of writing.
- Take a volunteer opportunity with a mental health organization. Mental health organizations local to you could use assistance, or you could volunteer nationally with an organization that operates primarily online. Consider your own level of accessibility, then commit to an organization that suits your own needs best.
- Integrate mental health advocacy into your daily life, by talking about it with friends, family members, and at the office or school. If your school or office has a Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, & Belonging (DEIB) cohort, be a resource for mental health advocacy to ensure everyone who needs it receives support and lack of stigmatization.
- Call in people who are using stigmatizing language by gently educating them via personal conversation, in person or on social media. Do the work of educating them and providing them with resources.
- Call out people who are hurting others with use of stigmatizing language in crowds or online. This is especially useful for people with mental health struggles who are watching — they need to see that their experiences and concerns are valid.
- Write to your congresspeople and local politicians, encouraging them to make mental health priority. Federal laws like the SUPPORT Act and the Mental Health Parity and Addiction Equity Act became law in the United States thanks to the work of mental health advocates applying pressure to elected officials.
- Go to a mental health awareness event. Local mental health organizations often advertise in the newspaper and on social media. At such an event, you can meet like-minded individuals, learn more about advocacy and volunteering, and even sign up for more formal volunteering opportunities in your area.
Many mental health advocates report that mental health advocacy has helped them cope with their own mental health issues, or heal from losing a loved one to a mental health struggle. Mental health advocacy is a fantastic way to help the greater community while focusing on an important area that needs more attention locally and nationally.
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