Speak up on behalf of a mentally ill person. Advocating for the empowerment of mentally ill people will help them overcome barriers of discrimination, powerlessness, and isolation.

People usually get involved in advocacy because they’ve seen an injustice and want to make a situation better. Through advocacy, we can change attitudes, raise consciousness, and make contact.

It takes time to create social policy changes, and it helps to understand the roles of decision-makers such as legislatures and administrative agencies. It also helps to develop skills in areas such as organizing, building media relations, holding meetings, and writing letters.

Writing a letter to your MLA or the Alberta Health Minister to raise awareness about a particular need is one way to begin lobbying for change. Identify the parties you’ll need to contact and influence, and spell out the programs and initiatives that need funding and support. Follow through with concrete, specific requests for support.

Fight Stigma

Speak up when you hear degrading comments and phrases. A simple way to fight stigma is to stop using negative language like “crazy,” “schizo,” “nuts,” or “psycho.” These words are frequently heard in casual conversation and in the media. This language adds to the burden for people with mental disorders and leaves them vulnerable to becoming isolated and afraid to seek help. Delete them from your own personal vocabulary, and encourage others to do the same. And speak up when you see demeaning media messages. When you see offensive advertising campaigns, write or phone your local mental health organization as well as the company behind the campaign. By doing this, you can inform the company about the disturbing nature of their lack of knowledge and about the problems their ignorance can cause. This type of misunderstanding usually occurs out of ignorance, not malice.