Three kinds of advocacy include 1) self-advocacy 2) individual advocacy and 3) systems advocacy. Let’s spend some time getting to know the basic components of each.
Self-Advocacy: Be Your Own Advocate.
Being your own advocate is a classic example of self-advocacy. It is all about speaking up for oneself—advocating for what you need. Self-advocacy also includes being able to speak up for what you desire such as hopes and dreams. Getting to know yourself, “finding” your voice, and gaining the confidence to effectively use your voice are empowering steps toward becoming your own advocate.
Individual Advocacy: Be an Advocate for Others
Individual advocacy involves speaking up and advocating for those who are vulnerable. Parents of children with significant mental health or medical needs become advocates as there are a lot of complexities in navigating systems to access support. Those who are in a caretaking role for the vulnerable are advocates and those who are in a professional role to help individuals and families connect to resources are also advocates. Individual advocates can take the form of informal or professional support. One example of professional support is case management. A case manager can assist with accessing resources to meet basic needs such as food, clothing, and shelter in addition to advocacy for ongoing mental health needs.
Systems Advocacy: Be an Advocate for Systemic Change
Systems advocacy involves actively working towards change at the local, state, and national levels to impact change within public policy. This involves working to reduce barriers through changing the laws or rules that impact individuals, especially the mental health of those who are considered most vulnerable. Systems advocates are often involved in collecting and using data to influence research and funding. Systems advocacy is like a powerful, collective voice of self-advocates and individual advocates working together to impact positive change.
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