Mental Illness and Self-Advocacy

rakwriter By rakwriter, 5th Apr 2015 | Follow this author | RSS Feed | Short URL
Posted in Wikinut>Health>Mind & Spirit>Mental Health

Mental illness requires more than medication and therapy. One of the greatest things you can do for yourself is to be your own advocate to ensure you get the greatest benefit from mental healthcare.

What is Self-Advocacy?

Getting treatment for a mental illness can be overwhelming. Finding a therapist, getting the right medication, and making the right lifestyle changes can be hard to figure out, especially when there's so much conflicting evidence across the Internet and between different organizations.

Being an advocate for yourself means being self-aware. Look at your behavior objectively. Keeping a journal can be a great benefit of keeping track of your moods and behaviors, your sleep patterns, what you eat, and how you interact with others will help you to recognize what symptoms you have.

Being an advocate for yourself also means knowing what you are and are not comfortable with. When a therapist or anyone else suggests a method of treatment you are not okay with, being a self-advocate means speaking up and expressing your preferences. It also means know what your rights are as a patient.

Tools for Self-Advocacy

Your greatest tool as a self-advocate is knowledge. Learn what therapists are in your area, what insurance they accept, and how you can acquire the necessary insurance to receive help. Familiarize yourself with the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, since it is the guidebook used to diagnose disorders. Do not attempt to diagnose yourself, but it will help if you can talk to a therapist and say, "I have these symptoms. Could it be _____?" Using this as a starting point, keeping an open mind that it may not be _____, your therapist can get an insight into your problems.

Once you receive your diagnosis, make sure you are comfortable with your therapist. They will be your advocate, but if you do not trust them, you will suffer in coping with your illness. You will also need a positive mindset that you have an illness, but it does not need to keep you from having a productive life. Know your medication options, and make sure your wishes are well known.

To clarify your wishes in treatment, ask your therapist to walk you through a Wellness Recovery Action Plan, or WRAP. This document will help to establish a guide of who you are at your best, how you behave when your mental health is suffering, and when it may be necessary for others to make decisions for you.

You should also ask for a list of your rights as a patient from your clinic. Make sure you understand those rights. Questions are an ultimate tool in self-advocacy. Ask questions until you clearly understand what your illness is, what can be done to treat it, and what rights you have to guide that treatment.

Lastly, boundaries are of the utmost importance. Eleanor Roosevelt is quoted as saying no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. If someone criticizes or belittles you for your illness, establish that you will not allow that kind of attitude. You may need to separate yourself from negative influences; educate yourself on your options on how to do that. This part of self-advocacy can be painful, but it is essential in preserving your mental health.


This article is not intended to treat or diagnose any illness, and the tools mentioned are not a guarantee of any results. They are meant as suggestions that may help you, but ultimately, you should do what works to preserve your quality of life and dignity. Always consult with your mental health professional before undertaking any kind of treatment. May you have success in your journey toward mental wellness.


Mental Illness, Patient Rights, Responsibility

Meet the author

author avatar rakwriter
Rob is an aspiring author living in Colorado Springs. When he's not writing about finances, social issues, or zombie culture, he spends his time working on his debut novel.

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author avatar Nancy Czerwinski
5th Apr 2015 (#)

Thanks for sharing your article. Smiles to you!

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author avatar Nancy Austin
9th May 2015 (#)

This is very well thought out and written.

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