Ask the Advocate: How Can I Be an Advocate for Myself?

Meet Arthur: he is a person who lives with a mental illness and a physical illness. Like many of our callers, he expressed a need for more help in his home. Arthur and I talked at great length about his needs and what resources were possibly available to him.

At Mental Health Minnesota, we encourage our callers to advocate for themselves so that they realize the rewards of taking action. As the peer advocate, I wanted Arthur to feel the power that comes from self determination and successful resolution. Together we created a plan and Arthur set out to accomplish it.

Arthur wanted to apply for the CADI program so that he could have PCA services covered by his health care plan. He called the county social services intake line and requested an application. The next step required him to fill out the application and send in the appropriate supporting documentation.

Initially Arthur was turned down for the program. Rather than appeal the denial, which was Arthur’s first instinct, we discussed the quicker possibility of reapplying again given that things had recently changed in his life. He reapplied and this time was granted approval.

Today Arthur has help in his home so that his needs are being adequately met for him to remain living in the community. And the best part of all: Arthur advocated for himself!

Advocating for yourself is an important part of mental health recovery. Self-advocacy is an important skill for everyone, but can be challenging to do. It takes time, planning, and support. At Mental Health Minnesota, our Peer Advocates often coach or support people in self-advocacy.

Here are some steps you or a loved one can take to become an effective self-advocate:

1. When you are faced with an issue, concern, or barrier, evaluate the situation. Think about what your goals are and what you would like the outcome to be.

2. Even though you are advocating for yourself, you do not have to do it alone. Reach out to your support network and ask them for feedback. You can also contact Mental Health Minnesota and speak with a Peer Advocate.

3. Explore your options. Consider some possible solutions for the issue at hand. Think about what you can do on your own, and what you might need some help with.

4. Start to develop a plan of action. Break down the things you need to do into small, manageable steps, rather than trying to accomplish everything all at once.

5. As you are developing your plan, stay organized. Write down questions you have, gather relevant documents, and track your progress by taking notes. Keep records of the organizations and people that you contact.

6. When it is time to advocate for yourself, be prepared. Bring notes with you, or have them in front of you if you are talking on the phone. Articulate your concern clearly and calmly. Remember to be as concise as possible while explaining your concern – try to keep all details relevant to the issue at hand.