The 5 Ws of Advocacy
Who? An advocate is anyone who cares enough to get involved on behalf of a person, concern, or cause. Advocates, to name a few, can be parents, spouses, children, siblings, friends, concerned citizens, volunteers, those in personal recovery, teachers, mental health professionals, etc. ANYONE can be an advocate!
What? An advocate helps another person get what he or she needs or wants. Advocates may promote positive legislation. An advocate investigates, educates, and may seek additional funding for specific programs. An advocate speaks up where others haven’t, can’t, or won’t.
When? An advocate acts when not enough is being done for the person and/or cause which concerns them, or when something very specific occurs which demands action and/or a response. Advocacy is a year-round process that requires communication with members of elected bodies so they know exactly where you stand when the time for voting comes. Issues must be kept in the public eye, or they are easily forgotten. The squeaky wheel gets the grease.
Where? Advocacy should occur anywhere where decisions are being made that affect the lives of persons for whom you are advocating for: community mental health centers, hospitals, Alcohol/Drug Addiction and Mental Health/Community Mental Health Boards, City Hall, County Courthouse, State Capitol, Capital Hill, etc. Get media attention. Speak out at meetings, assemblies, and public hearings. An advocate must go where the people who have the power to change things are. Advocates must join with others to create a unified voice. There is power in numbers.
Why? Because YOU care and want to help others get their needs addressed, ensure rights, reverse wrongs, provide protection, and encourage a more humane and responsive system. Advocates are there to increase awareness about issues others may not be aware of. Advocates work on identifying solutions to problems. He who is silent is forgotten; he who abstains is taken at his word; he who does not advance falls back; he who stops is overwhelmed, distanced, crushed; he who ceases to grow greater becomes smaller; he who leaves off gives up; the stationary condition is the beginning of the end.….Amiel
There are two faces of advocacy, which may appear separately or within the same stream of action. The PRO face uses approaches to advocacy which attempt to “spread the word” through means such as community education programs, public relations, etc.; the CON face uses those which challenge or counter an expressed position through means such as use of the media, public debate, etc. It is important to plan and organize, know the facts, speak up, join forces with others who have your same beliefs and passion, develop relationships, create awareness, and lastly NEVER GIVE UP! Whether short term (a single piece of legislation) or long term (attitudinal changes in the community – stigma), set your objectives and establish measurable steps towards accomplishing them.
Take Action Now: You can make a big difference in just 5 minutes. That’s all the time it takes to call or email your elected officials and share your opinions about the policy issues affecting you and your community. The actions of our government have an enormous impact, so don’t wait – take action today!