Self-advocacy is the ability to understand and effectively communicate one’s needs to other individuals. It is about taking control over decisions about yourself and telling others about these decisions. Many people take the ability to self-advocate for granted, however for others it is a skill to work on. For everyone, self-advocacy is a journey and there is always more to be learned. Mental health services can be hard to navigate and there are so many resources each with a different set of rules and regulations. For anyone utilising those resources, self-advocacy is an essential skill. So, how can you learn how to advocate for yourself?
Here are some key skills involved in being an advocate for yourself:
Under the law you are entitled to equality. For in depth information you can read an overview of the Equality Act (2010) here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/equality-act-2010-guidance. If you are being held under the Mental Health Act (1983), someone must explain to you your rights in this situation. Here is an overview of the information you must be given: https://assets.nhs.uk/prod/documents/MH-CoP-Information-you-must-be-given.pdf.
It is important to know about the particular system you are advocating within, whether that is the Department for Work and Pensions, a Community Mental Health Team, a Multi-Disciplinary Team in a unit or any other system. You can find a lot of information on an organisation’s web page or you can phone in with a list of questions.
If you want, you can bring along family members or friends when you are self-advocating for support or to give extra information. If you are eligible for an Advocate of any kind, whether that is an Independent Mental Health Advocate, a Care Act Advocate, a Peer Advocate or any other, you can meet with them to get tips on self-advocacy. After all, the ultimate aim of all forms of advocacy is to support people to self-advocate as much as they are able to.
Don’t give up! You don’t need to be intimidated by others’ authority. It is your right to advocate for yourself, ensure that the care you receive is suited specifically to you and make sure your wishes are heard. You can take breaks from meetings whenever you need to and you can ask for adjustments to meetings to make you feel as comfortable as possible.
If you have any other questions about self-advocacy you can ring Advent Advocacy any weekday between 9-5 on: 01325 776554 or contact us by clicking here.