Before you develop your plan for becoming an advocate, it is important that you read, “Become an Advocate for Mental Health,” on this website. It will help you understand your options and/or role in developing an advocacy plan. You may discover that you need to advocate for yourself and find out how to do it. During this first step, you may find help in a faith community open to collaboration in the field of mental health, and along the way prayer and meditation can assist you in making major decisions.
Develop an awareness of the need. What is needed and where is it needed? Is it emergency, meaning need immediate action, or is it slowly waiting for attention? Each requires a different response, and you may need to become quickly informed about resources. (See, Emergency Response for Persons With Mental Health Impairment, this website.)
Find the facts. Get correct information that will help you find your focus point and in the end save time for you or your group. Find answers for your questions: What is being done in the field of mental illness or mental health education in your community? How are resources financed? Who else is working to gain change, and can you collaborate with them? Will they be a barrier or help to your plan?
Develop an Action Plan: Facts you have collected will help you develop a picture of your action plan. How much time can you spend on this? What do you hope to accomplish? Now, what is the plan going to look like? You are creating an end product picture in your mind with the knowledge that if you work with others, they may alter your picture. This is excellent and means creativity is in the mix, but do not let someone dissuade your picture, if yours is best.
Decide if this is a one-person plan or a group plan. Here you make the crucial decision about working alone or identifying allies and collaborating with them in your advocacy. At first you may need to go it alone and listen and sound out others’ opinions. You may enlist persons of like mind and work with coalitions of groups.
At this point if you are working with groups, someone may say, “It has worked for years. We have always done it that way.” And this is where you answer in a positive way, making them feel good about what they have done, but offer an alternative way to evaluate the need. This is where you stick to your guns if your facts are correct. Transitions are tricky because they require change that can cause hurt feelings or seem to diminish what has been done. If possible, try to build on what has been done. If that is not possible, slow change is necessary
William Bridges in Managing Transitions, Making the Most of Change says you need to explain the basic purpose behind the outcome you seek so persons can see where they are going. Then you need to paint a picture of themselves and others so they know how the change will feel. The picture needs to include how their advocacy will change the face of mental illness and mental health. Help each person find a way to contribute so they are represented in the picture.
Along the Way
Create a strategy for using social media. Well-planned social media can help you recruit collaborators, help you promote your educational ideas and call attention to your group’s plans. If you have decided to be a one-person plan you can also recruit help for that and control promotion. Know what you want to achieve before you go to twitter, Facebook, utube, pintarest, redditWhatsApp, podcasts or take to blogging. (If you don’t know where you are going, you might end up somewhere else.)
If you are unfamiliar with social media, ask for help at the beginning with your plans.
Remember to thank your God for the help you have received along the way, and move forward with confidence that God will help you discern your role as an advocate for mental illness and mental health. Every role is significant whether self, case or cause, and you can be any one of these.