Mental Health Advocacy Issues From My Point Of View

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When I first started my Facebook page, which is a mental health support and awareness page, I had no idea that it would become as popular as it has. It is by no means what one would consider huge, but the followers of the page are there for support, insight and to feel that they are not alone in their day-to-day lives with mental illness and running the page has given me support as well as giving it to others. I consider it to be one of my very best contributions to Mental Health Awareness. One of the very first things that it states on my page is that I am not a doctor nor am I a mental health worker. I do not give medical advice, and I never encourage people to stop their medications. I always advocate for people to continue being open and honest with their doctors and counselors. I must make this point absolutely clear. I am an advocate, not a doctor or a snake oil salesman. I do not have the “cures” for Mental illness but I do have a ton of people backing me up when it comes to supporting YOU.

Part of being the owner and admin of a mental health support and awareness page is sharing other great pages of the same nature. We want our followers to have the best support, links to the very best and newest information regarding mental illness and treatments, and also “meet” other advocates as well as admins that are dedicated to helping people live well with their illnesses. A lot of us also refer our followers to organizations that can possibly help them out regarding support systems for their family members, help them with their disability claims, and even get them help finding shelters for themselves and their children if need be.

We spend a lot of time trying really damn hard to share our own stories in the hope that it will take the shame away from people who still feel that way when it comes to being diagnosed. One of the most amazing places you will find these stories is at Stigma Fighters a non-profit (status pending) and their other franchises. We try to educate people on the facts about mental illness by throwing out personal stories and the latest stats on how many people are truly affected by things such as depression, OCD, Personality Disorders, Mood Disorders, and everything in between. Can you believe that there are still people out there who think mental illness is made up? No wonder 762 Canadian Youth die by suicide each year. That stat comes to you from the amazing Canadian non-profit Partners For Mental Health.

Collectively we as admins have an amazing system that has helped so many people find the support and treatment that they need. We have referred people to crisis centers and even had health and welfare checks sent to people’s homes. A few of us Admins, and our group moderators, have a system in place for when someone is in crisis and chooses to contact one of us rather than someone close to them. We care about you and while we can’t always be there 24/7 we have done our best to put systems in place to cover what we can.

With all of these amazing advocates and non profits like the ones I mentioned above all working together, we also sometimes run into those that really don’t seem too inclined to actually help people. It’s a sad fact that on a regular basis I have other admins from pages that I refuse to share, because the content is solely focused on selling their latest book under the guise of being a mental health awareness page, asking me to “pimp” their next new book out there, while not actually doing anything to advocate for mental illness. In their eyes, the only kind of contribution to awareness and ending stigma is that new book, and kudos to them for writing it, I wish them a bestseller, but I also hope it helps someone too, because somewhere along the lines of them hustling said book, they forgot about the people who have been counting on them. Don’t call yourself an advocate if you refuse to be one. I’ll push your book for you, I have no problem doing that, but in the miss-quoted words of Judge Judy, “Don’t piss on my leg and tell me it’s raining.” You can be both things, Shit you can be fifteen different things, but lets clarify that you actually have to do something requiring you to advocate for people to call yourself an advocate. It just is that way.

All I’m saying is, don’t turn your advocacy page where people are counting on you to continue posting relevant info into your new author page and keep it titled as your MH page, start a new page for that, and I’ll be happy to share that too. I want you to succeed in all that you do.  And if you no longer wish to focus on your MH page, that’s your choice too, but don’t you dare tell me that I’m not an advocate because I haven’t written a book, won an award, or been featured on The Huffington Post. And for the love of all that is Holy, STOP dropping names. I don’t care if your new best friend founded an amazing organization or wrote a best-selling book, it doesn’t make what you have done any less or any better. That’s all on you. You make your own success or failure. And that’s about all I’ve got to say about that.

14 comments

  1. Great post, as always, Nicole! I am SO impressed with your writing about a topic that no one has touched (as far as I know) and I love how gutsy, honest and bold you are in your writing. It gets me fired up to comment! Sit back and relax….

    First of, your Admins are AMAZING. Reading about the concrete ways in which people have been helped is absolutely incredible. Thank you for all the work you and the other Stigma Fighters have done and continue to do – you don’t sit on your ass and complain – you actually DO something about the dire situations surrounding those battling mental illness and stigma. You should be MEGA-proud.

    As far as advocacy goes…I count my running several free support groups/month for women with mood disorders as mental health advocacy. Why? because I constantly publicize the existence of these groups in my community through social and print media, through my local NAMI chapter, through Meetup, and through the upcoming DBSA Chapter I re-activated! In all these channels, I express how there’s a NEED to help women with mental health challenges because I hear from them constantly, asking if there’s a support group for women who have bipolar, depression, anxiety and other mood disorders. No one in my supposedly “progressive” area has broached this topic because the social stigma is still in full force!

    Then again, are running and promoting support groups truly advocacy? Do I have my head up my butt? Well, for one thing, I think the word gets lost on many people. I honestly am not sure of the “exact” definition. I guess I need to look at the dictionary:

    ADVOCACY
    “active support, especially of a cause” and

    “the act of pleading for, supporting, or recommending; active espousal:
    He was known for his advocacy of states’ rights

    Yeah, I believe I am an advocate! 🙂 While I LOVE our online communities and blogosphere, there is NOTHING like being in a room with ten women where some of them cry, where some of them say that they can’t reveal their bipolar at work for fear of the consequences, for being able to discuss suicidal feelings because “I can’t bring this up anywhere else”. From the start I made it crystal-clear that the groups aren’t substitutes for medical advice/therapy; however, they are an outlet for these struggling women. I can see their expressions of relief in sharing their real thoughts with one another and feeling understood!!!!!

    I won’t go asking you to pimp anything of mine. Well, I might actually ask you a favor, but not for a long time, and I promise to keep separate pages.

    Thanks again for motivating me to share my two, make that, 100 cents!
    XO
    Dyane

    p.s. I’ll be sure to tweet and share your post via Facebook as always….if I space on it & you notice, please remind me!!! It takes 10 seconds! Even though my networks are small, you never know who might read it, right?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Dyane, you do amazing things, and I am so grateful that our paths have crossed. You help so many people and are such an inspiration to so many. Thank you. You can always count on me to “pimp” 😉 share anything of yours 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. You’re too kind!

    I don’t help that many people, and while I wish I could say that I did, I remind myself how important my local groups are and it’s okay that I’m not a “Bipolar Superstar”.I hope to find others in my area who can work with me to offer more groups. It’s truly bizarre that there aren’t support groups in the mountains where 15,000+ people live. Nothing. Yes, there are some AA groups (only a few) but that’s not the same, of course. And believe me when I tell you there are many women (mainly moms) who need a place to share and connect with other women with mood disorders. (I know you’ll take my word for it!)

    I’m completing the paperwork for renewing our DBSA Chapter. I ran one for two years, but then I relapsed with bipolar depression, & in my agony, I passed the responsibility on to someone I foolishly, mistakenly trusted. She ultimately dropped the DBSA ball & the chapter folded. Oh well. Lesson learned!

    Sorry to go on and on. You’ve totally made my day with your wonderful words. And the only thing I want you to pimp right now is my ride: An old, white Suburu Forrester, ha ha! There’s no room for a hot tub in the back area, bummer! (I actually used to watch “Pimp My Ride”and loved that wacky, over-the-top show!)

    Wishing you a great day, you gorgeous, talented gal. Thanks for not being afraid to write the truth.
    You inspire me to do it too.
    love, your big fan,
    Dy

    Liked by 1 person

  4. There is so much truth written in this post. I consider myself “new” following groups through social media and become an advocate. I had a terrible encounter with an “award winner” blogger who didn’t waste any time bragging about her achievements to me and others without offering helpful advice at all. Like you said, I don’t care if you won an academy award, golden globes, etc… turning advocacy as some form of selling your product and become a celebrity. It’s a fine line because it is a subject that needs to be acknowledge & addressed because it can perpetuate to stigma and shame. After all, we are on the same boat trying our best to manage and cope with our illness. Keep the good work Nicole!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. I stumbled into mental health advocacy last summer when I wrote my first blog post and came out to the world on Facebook as someone with mental illness. I still don’t always consider myself an advocate, but I know I am. Being a part of this community of advocates is so empowering for me. I never knew all of you existed, and being connected to others who suffer and advocate makes my illness so much more manageable. And just like in teaching or really anything in life, for me it’s about relationships. I do sometimes wish more people read my stuff and I had more of a “following”, but I’m not in this to make money or become famous. The bottom line is that what I love most about it is the connection i feel and the experiences when I’ve been able to help others feel less alone or ashamed. That is why I do what I do. It’s about healing; both for me and for others whose lives I may touch in some way. That’s really all that matters in my opinion.

    I don’t know you well Nicole, but I know you well enough to know you also are all about helping people. You have been very kind and supportive towards me, and I appreciate your direct approach. I know you already know this, but their reaction is all about them and not you. If they think you were talking about them and became defensive they probably recognized they are like what you described in your post. It’s a shame so many people are so reactive and quick to start a fight. I’m glad you wrote this post, it’s clear you aren’t the only one who feels this way.

    Take care, I’m grateful to know you. 🙂

    Danny

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I absolutely agree with you! I also get very very irritated and annoyed at those that continually send out messages asking me to share their pages just because they want “numbers” and those that will comment on every single thing I post with not an actual comment, but a link to their page. I am not a “numbers” person. I love the fact that so many people have become part of my page and I do acknowledge that because I am so grateful for their support and also am blessed to be able to help so many people as well. However, I worked hard (as do so many other advocates with pages) to create supportive content, respond to messages personally, and create the community that I have, and if I believe someone’s page is helpful, or a valuable resource, I have no problem sharing it, referring people to it, guest posting on it, etc., but don’t use my page and my content as your personal platform to “pimp out” your own page. A simple post on the sidebar or a message to me sharing your page and letting me know about it works just fine. I will check it out and promote as I see fit. I don’t go around pasting my website links on every other advocates page trying to “boost my numbers”. That’s not what advocacy is about. YES, you want to reach as many as you can, but numbers are not the primary focus or purpose of these blogs and pages. (Well, the really good ones that is). The focus is on the content. You bring the content, people will naturally follow. I also do not have a best seller, but to me, my blog, FB page, and all the other media accounts that go along with it are MY OWN best sellers because they help the people who have come to it for that purpose.

    You keep doing what you are doing! Those that follow your page or are active in its groups are definitely benefiting from all the outstanding work and support that you give. Our primary focus should be the page and supporting those that are currently looking to the page for the support. If we continue to focus on that, then we are being the best advocates we can be. Advocacy isn’t about fame. Sure, being famous and THEN becoming an advocate has its advantages, but we don’t start out as advocates to become famous. We do it because we care about others. The minute we lose sight of that, that’s when we are no longer being the best advocates we can be.

    This is a fabulous post love, as all of your are. I will always back you up 110% because I know your heart is in the right place and you write from the heart, open up your own life to us and share your personal experiences so that other can learn and grow and be inspired. I’ve got your back. You know I have from Day 1. And that’s the other thing. When you are truly advocating for others, and doing it for the right reasons, you will be around in the community for a long time. We have a much longer shelf life than someone doing it for accolades and fame. That’s just the reality of it. Stick to your gut and your standards, never lose sight of your morals and values, and you will be the best personal success you can be!

    (Sorry for writing a whole post as a comment, but u know me. I can’t ever say anything in just a few words! Lol) love you!!

    -bipolar hot mess- (aka christi)

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Good job standing your ground. You have no obligation to market anyone else’s work. I know I have questioned whether or not I ever want to write a book. Seems like a lot of work. For now, I blog and hopefully help others by sharing what I consider useful information.

    Liked by 1 person

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