Advocacy starts with concerns and effective advocacy starts with shared concerns. Many groups that I have been part of talk about the importance of action but too often they spend more time sniping at each other than they do actually doing anything. To some degree this seems to be changing but there is a long way to go.
Part of the problem I wonder is that maybe we get the cart before the horse. Effective advocacy is not so much a function of the brilliance of the solutions we propose as it is our commitment to the concerns we share. If we have no common concerns that grab us at the gut level the likelihood is that we will have little common cause. If our shared concerns do not move us to action the likelihood is that we will not act.
I think there are many important concerns. Murphy’s concerns are inadequate. There is far more going on than his 4% he is always talking about. Coercion is not the most important issue. If you have something that works you normally dont have to force people to buy it.
The post below talks about my concerns. It was written some time ago but as we struggle to move forward in action seems relevant. You may share some of these concerns. Others you may not. You may have some not on this list.
What we are for depends on what we care about. I applaud the many people who seem committed to finding shared concerns and common action and getting past the chronic squabbling that has left us immobilized.
In a preceding post I talked about an essential, suprisingly often forgotten, step in advocacy. Before anyone can respond to what you ask you must be clear about what you are asking. If people are not sure what you are selling they probably arent buying.
I also talked about the importance of being for something. It is a lot easier to convince someone not to buy something if you give them a better alternative.
I have listened to a lot of ideas about change. Some seem very important and very doable. Some dont seem relevant to current reality. They just arent going to happen. No one other than a small group is for them and it is unclear if hopes for legislative support are even realistic. Some dont seem like they are very true. They are not what they are advertised to be. Some seem important. Some seem not so important.
The questions below are adapted from a previous post. They are one way, certainly not the only and probably not the best way to look at proposed mental health reform. How much would a proposal actually change things? Does it address important problems? Does it address what you want addressed? Does it leave important questions unaddressed?
What does the proposal have to do with:
The issue of access to services. There is no help if you cant get it. Lack of access is a major issue for many many people. Health care reform and adequate funding for mental health services are both essential.
The issue of effective services. Many things we do dont work very well. Some things may even do more harm than good. We do too much because that is what we are used to doing or because someone has a vested interest in continuing to see it done.
The issue of making sure those who seek help are treated with dignity and respect. For too many the most difficult thing is not the issues they deal with but the system they turn to for help. Those who help you should not be a source of trauma in your life.
The issue of making sure that people have access to correct information to enable them to make decisions about their own lives. The mental health system should be accurate and honest.
The issue of supporting people in making those decisions. Empowering people to be in charge of their lives.
The issue of enabling people to acquire the skills and tools that really make a difference in their lives. Learning makes a difference and the mental health system should make possible learning that makes a differerence.
Addressing issues of homelessness, joblessness, and poverty that are so often part of what it means to be labeled with a mental illness in this country.
Addressing the dismal state of health care that so many people with mental health diagnosis receive. It is a crime and disgrace that people with psychiatric diagnosis die much earlier than those without. Everyone with a diagnosis knows what it is like to be treated like real medical issues are “in their head.”
Addressing the very real issues of discrimination and prejudice that is a core element in the life of everyone who has a mental health diagnosis.
Addressing the benefits, risks and side effects of medication. Making sure that choices about medication are informed choices.
Addressing the national disgrace of the treatment of those with mental health issues in the jails and prisons of this country.
Addressing the national calamity of suicide.
Addressing the growing issue of trauma. Moving mental health from a whats wrong system to a what happened system.
Addressing the issue of peer support. It is clear and overwhelming that the voice of lived experience matters. What role should it play in an optimal system?
There are many more issues to be considered, Some issues translate easily into proposed legislation. Some may not translate at all and other advocacy may be called for. The important thing is to know what you are asking, ask something worth asking and have a plan how to effectively get the answer you want.