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 for persons with neurobiological brain disorders are parents, spouses, children, siblings and friends. Concerned citizens, volunteers, patients in recovery, teachers, attorneys, and mental health professionals can be advocates, too, as can you.
What? An advocate helps another person get what he or she needs or wants. Advocates may promote legislation. An advocate investigates, educates, lobbies, and seeks additional funding for 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 or cause which concerns them, or when something very specific occurs which demands action or 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'll be forgotten. The squeaky wheel gets the grease. Neurobiological brain disorders don't go away – neither should its advocates.
Where? Anywhere decisions are made that affect the lives of persons with a neurobiological brain disorder: community mental health centers, hospitals, Alcohol, Drug Addiction and Mental Health /Community Mental Health Boards, City Hall, County Courthouse, State House, Capital Hill. Use the media. Speak at meetings, assemblies, and hearings. An advocate must go where the people who have the power to change things are.
Why? Because we care. Assist people with neurobiological brain disorders in getting their needs addressed. Ensure rights, reverse wrongs, provide protection, and encourage a more humane and responsive system. An advocate is there for persons with a neurobiological brain disorder because all too often the system is not.
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 well and to execute your plan consistently. 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.
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