Advocacy is defined in the dictionary as “public support for or recommendation of a particular cause or policy.” In short, advocacy is speaking out on issues of that you care about. It takes many forms, and occurs at many levels. See below for a few ideas on advocacy--there are many more ways to advocate.
1. Join the Eastern Regional Mental Health Board. We provide you with an opportunity to improve Connecticut’s mental health system. You can submit your own feedback on services, and interview staff and clients from state funded mental health programs in Eastern Connecticut. Our yearly evaluations of state-funded mental health programs are submitted to the Office of the Commissioner and in the past, have led to significant change in how services are provided.
2. Educate yourself about your diagnosis and express your opinion to your doctor or case manager about what treatment or program works best for you.
3. Help a friend or a family member gain access to services and provide support in expressing their preferences and goals to providers.
4. Testify at local planning, zoning and budget hearings and attend neighborhood and public meetings. Speak up in favor of non-profits that provide essential community-based mental health services. Tell how these programs have helped you or a family member.
5. Meet with your state and federal legislators. Tell your personal stories and show how the right services helped you or a family member achieve independence in the community. This “puts a face” on mental illness, educates legislators and fights stigma. Ask for something specific, and take fact sheets with you. Find out who represents you in the Connecticut General Assembly and in the U.S. Congress.
6. Ask your church, local PTA, or civic organization to sponsor a presentation about mental illness, recovery, and community supports for individuals with psychiatric disabilities.
7. Respond to inaccurate portrayals of mental illness in the news, on television or in the movies by writing a letter to the editor or writing to the network. When you see positive portrayals of people with mental illnesses who are successful in their communities, write thank you letters and ask for more stories like these.
8. Submit a letter to the editor when important issues related to mental illness arise in your community.
9. Wear a T-shirt with a mental health slogan to hearings and community events.
10. Vote! Help others to do so by encouraging them to register to vote and providing them with a ride to the polls.
11. Utilize clubhouse events like holiday meals at shelters to encourage advocacy; provide paper, pens, stamped envelopes, and sample letters at every meeting and event. Or have a "Call In Day." Offer several cellular phones at your clubhouse so members and staff can call their legislators and ask them to fund essential services.
12. Invite your legislator to visit your clubhouse. Help them to understand that community-based mental health services are not only better for individuals for mental illnesses; they also save money!
Remember: whatever you decide on, we can help you with your advocacy efforts, whether you need help contacting your legislator, writing a letter, or finding a ride to a meeting. Call 860-886-0030 or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!