Being a mental health advocate in a world so full of stigma can be exhausting. No one want to have a mental illness, yet those who are the most vulnerable are often put in the position to advocate for themselves, or be mistreated in one way or another. So, though no one signs up for mental illness, they are often forced into advocacy of some sort.
Having a mental illness and being an advocate does not just mean doing large advocacy campaigns like meeting with your congressmen or going to a protest or rally. It also means educating family members and friends about your illness and explaining why it is not your fault, and no, you can’t just smile and feel better. It means telling a physician in an ER why they should not give you a certain medication, because even though you told them you are a recovering addict they still prescribe a habit-forming drug. Being a mental health advocate can be something as simple as telling those around you to stop calling random people bipolar or OCD, because they are real diagnoses people struggle with.
Just like flight attendants say to put your own oxygen mask on before helping other passengers, you must first advocate for yourself and your own mental wellbeing before advocating for others, or the cause as a whole.
About a year ago, I chose to take my mental health advocacy a step further. I started this blog and made it public. I have shared my blog on multiple social media platforms and have made business cards I leave at different coffee shops and the pharmacy.
I never wanted to be a mental health advocate. I just wanted to live a “normal” life in which I could be blissfully unaware of the struggles these illnesses cause. It didn’t take long, however, for me to discover that I could not stay quiet when people said hurtful things about those with a mental illness. I felt the need to educate others about topics related to mental illness because as I educated myself about this, I learned just how prevalent these illnesses are.
With so many people experiencing depression, anxiety, bipolar disorder, schizophrenia, eating disorders, etc. I still cannot wrap my head around why there is still such a stigma. That is why I am as open about my own struggles as I am, and it is why I keep advocating, even when I would rather throw my hands up and walk away.
I encourage all of you to think about a way you can advocate to end the stigma of mental illness, or to advocate for yourself and your own or your family members treatment.