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. This will prevent false starts, and, in the end, save time for you or your group. 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 where you do the work and stick to your picture of change or decide if you can identify allies. At first you may need to go it alone, listen, sound out, enlist persons of like mind, work with coalitions of groups or single persons of like mind.
This is where someone says, “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.
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 get help for that. 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.