What is Advocacy?

The word advocacy usually means different things to different people, ranging from holding a bake sale for a local school to helping a patient fight for their legal rights. Webster’s Dictionary defines advocate as both a noun and verb.

Advocate Definition

  1. (n) One who argues a cause or pleads the cause of another; a supporter or defender
  2. (v) Pleading on behalf of something

So you may have been an advocate and not even realized it! Being an advocate for an issue means making your voice heard and fighting for what you believe is right.

Types of Advocacy

  • Self-advocacy is the process that involves identifying the obstacles you face as a patient, developing the strategies to overcome them, and then putting your plan into action.
  • Public policy or legislative advocacy is the act of trying to influence public policy at the state and federal levels through a wide range of activities.

Keep in mind that the process of an ordinary citizen providing feedback to legislators and policymakers is the foundation of our democracy and it is often easy to do.

Advocacy is about making positive changes.

  • Help people get access to mental health services.
  • Enhance the quality or kind of mental health services people receive.
  • Protect patients' rights (protections under the Mental Health Act or other legislation, discrimination, etc.).
  • Change an unfair work situation (hiring and firing, being treated unfairly, etc.).
  • Help people get social assistance (eligibility, losing assistance, being assigned to the wrong kind of assistance, etc.).
  • Change any other situation that needs to be changed in order to enhance a person's quality of life. For example, you could create or promote public education to eliminate stigma about mental health or address issues surrounding social assistance and/or poverty and class.

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