Being A Mental Health Advocate
You are just as important as the next person struggling. You are just as important as the person you are advocating for. Never forget to advocate for yourself.
Being a mental health advocate does not mean agreeing with people when they say that, “They hate that people struggle with mental illnesses.” Sure, that may be part of it, but there is so much more than that to be considered. Being a mental health advocate means pouring everything you have – your heart, your soul, your sleep schedule, your social plans; everything – to represent the population that fights battles each and every day of their lives. Often times, these battles go unnoticed because they are internal, but that in no way means that these battles are any less intense, hurtful, or painful as any external battle.
Being a mental health advocate for over five years and struggling with mental illnesses for 10, I’ve grown to love people I never thought I would, to accept facts that I denied my whole life, to show compassion in unknown circumstances… The list goes on and on. I used to view my mental health problems as just that – problems. But as soon as I ditched the false idea that the struggles that I dealt (and still deal) with were not problems, but things I was given to make me stronger, a whole new world was opened up to me. Soon after, I realized that I could use what I once saw as the most negative things to help other people deal with the thought that once plagued me as well – that they, in themselves, were the problem – not the chemical imbalance in their brain that they could not control.
Being a mental health advocate means being open minded towards treatment. Personally, I am a firm believer in medication; I’ve been medicated since I was 9 years old. But, I realize that medication may not be for everyone. There are so many different ways to calm your mind, soul, and over all psyche; really, the possibilities are endless. Between nature, aromatherapy, acupuncture, therapy, and so much more, I can confidently say that anyone with mental illness is NEVER without a way to get help. The only thing that I don’t condone, and I can speak for any other mental health advocate as well, is the use of drugs for relief.
Being a mental health advocate means always being available to talk. I am a firm believer in therapy and having a third-party person to talk to – I’ve personally been seeing a therapist for over 10 years and I don’t plan on stopping anytime soon. Even if it’s a friend, a family member, a teacher, a school counselor, or even myself, don’t let a day go by without letting out your feelings. One of the most crucial parts of dealing with mental illnesses is expressing your feelings in a healthy way, not stuffing them down where they will eventually bubble over and explode. That has been proven to be not only disastrous, but extremely unhealthy.
Being a mental health advocate means having an open mind. Nothing is off the table when it comes to your mental health and as an advocate, you need to be ready to deal with anything and everything. Educate yourself. Learn more about the mental illnesses you personally don’t struggle with, that way if people ask you for advice or if you’re asked to speak out, you know facts. Don’t let situations scare you. I know it can be hard – some things are more intense than others. But that doesn’t mean that those people that struggle still don’t need help and someone to advocate for them.
Being a mental health advocate means finding your voice. My voice was hidden for years and years because I didn’t want to admit to people that I struggled. I wanted to show that I was a “perfect person,” that there was nothing wrong with me, that I was an average kid. But then, once I started speaking out, I realized that I was already an average kid even with my mental illnesses because it is more common than people realize. I never knew I was already normal, even with my struggles, until people came up to me and shared their battle stories. Because I had the courage to find my voice, I encouraged other people to find theirs.
Being a mental health advocate means advocating for yourself, as well. Never forget about your own struggles. Don’t get so caught up in other people that you forget to tend to yourself and what you are going through. Taking care of yourself is not selfish; it’s actually the opposite. Taking care of you is one of the strongest things you can do, even if you don’t feel like it is. You are just as important as the next person struggling. You are just as important as the person you are advocating for. Never forget to advocate for yourself.
Being a mental health advocate means so many things to me. It means encouragement, strength, determination, provision, reliability, vulnerability; just to name a few. Five years ago, when I decided I wanted to advocate, I didn’t really know what I was getting myself into and if I had known then, I’m not sure if I would have dived in head first. But, I’m glad that I didn’t know the details because I wouldn’t have been able to come this far not only with my own mental health, but with the aiding of other’s as well. Since becoming an advocate, there has never been a day of regret, and if you decide to advocate with me and millions of other people, I can guarantee you’ll feel the same.