What is Advocacy?
To Advocate means to speak up or take action in favor of a cause or issue.
An Advocate is someone who believes in a cause and promotes it.
Basically advocacy is simply speaking up for what you believe in.
There are several types of Advocacy including:
- Self Advocacy: Speaking up for yourself and standing up for your own rights. It is deciding what is best for you and taking charge of getting it.
- Advocating for Others: Helping other people by speaking out for them or helping them get what they want or need. It may also be listening and supporting them while they decide what they might want to do.
- Systems Advocacy: Working to change policies, rules, laws or systems. The change made in systems advocacy will help many people instead of just one person.
- Legislative Advocacy: Sharing information to educate lawmakers about the real issues affecting families of children and youth with mental health challenges in an effort to change the laws and policies that affect them.
Advocacy is an activity that is at the heart of all that we do at ACMH! ACMH advocates for programs, policies and systems that support it’s mission:
“ That ALL Michigan children and youth with severe mental health challenges and their families live in safe and welcoming communities with access to needed services and supports.”
ACMH Feels Advocacy Work is Incredibly Important Because:
It spreads awareness about the real issues of children and youth with mental health challenges and their families. This awareness is important in order to preserve necessary funding and to help shape policies that support family driven and youth guided policies and strengthen mental health services and supports and family voice and choice!
ACMH works to connect families to advocacy opportunities because we know that families and youth are the most powerful change agents! Families can share information about important policy issues that may affect them or their kids.
If you are interested in enhancing your advocacy skills consider signing up for an ACMH parent or youth leadership camp. If you are unable to attend a camp you can still get involved and make your voice heard on issues that are important to you and your family. This section of the website will provide some basic information about how to get involved in advocacy and provide some tips to make your advocacy efforts a success!
How Can You Get Involved in Advocacy Work?
You can advocate for the things you care about in a variety of ways and places, for example: getting involved on your local community mental health board or advisory committee, speaking at a local school board meeting, contacting your local, state or federal legislators, hosting a parent group on an issue important to you and other families, just to name a few.
You can share your message by writing letters, making phone calls or reaching out to encourage people to support issues by educating a friend, other families, community partners or policy-makers on topics related to children’s mental health that are important to you and your family
The basic goal of all Advocacy work is to Educate, Educate, Educate! Share information about why your issue is important to you and why others should care about it too.
Some tips about how to prepare your advocacy strategies and messages are listed below, as well as some tips to help you with the basics. If you would like additional information or support in your advocacy efforts call the ACMH office today!
The biggest key to the success of all advocacy efforts is to: JUST DO IT!
Participate! Be present, get involved, speak-up! Share your story, write a letter, make a phone call, participate in: a parent group, a community organization, a decision making board, etc…And, most importantly remember the old saying: The world is ruled by those who show up!
Additional Advocacy Resources for Families & Youth:
The ACMH Website, Facebook Page and Parent Listserv are great up-to-date resources for current issues that may affect children and youth with mental health challenges and their families, as well as, opportunities for family and youth involvement and advocacy.
In addition, the following organizations have great information about advocacy opportunities and policy issues that may be of interest to families:
- Disability Rights of Michigan (formerly Michigan Protection & Advocacy)
- Michigan’s Children
- Michigan Council on Crime & Delinquency
- Federation of Families for Children’s Mental Health
- The Mental Health Association of Michigan
- NAMI of Michigan
The Michigan Citizen’s Guide to Government is a great resource to get if you are interested in getting involved in legislative advocacy. You can get one today by calling or visiting your State Representative of Senator’s office today.
You can find your State Legislator’s contact information by visiting the michigan.gov websites:
“We must remember that one determined person can make a difference, and that a small group of determined people can change the course of history”
~ Sonia Johnson