Before you can be an advocate, you need to understand what an advocate is. We could sit down and google for definitions, but I can say it much more simply. Being an advocate is about having a passion for a cause, which you are doing all you can to support.
I became an advocate by accident, and the more I tackled the stigma of Mental Health Advocate, the more I wanted to do and the more passionate I became. There are no rules for becoming a lawyer, but I have learned a few things along the way:
This is the cardinal rule. It seems ironic that an advocate usually puts others first and I’m telling you here that you come first. The simple truth is that advocacy is not easy, it is exhausting and can be harmful to your sanity. When you give so much to others, you need to make sure that you give back to yourself. After all, how can you be an advocate if you don’t stand up for yourself?
LOOK AT THE BIGGER PICTURE
Judgment is a horrible part of human nature, we all do it. It’s so easy to assume and judge the people around us, and even more so with the people, we don’t know. Being an advocate means meeting and talking to a lot of people, some of whom you might disagree with. But you can choose who will help you with the cause you support. Try not to judge, listen to each other’s stories, and be there even for those you don’t necessarily like.
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LEARN WHEN TO BE VOICE AND WHEN NOT TO BE
It is assumed that lawyers have an opinion on everything. But sometimes you have to let a hot topic slip away or let someone else enjoy their moment. Remember that defenders are fighting for a just world, but they have no pitchfork, they are not about hate or evil. Try not to choose your side, try to focus on the greater good and the real benefit of those who need your voice more than ever.
REMEMBER YOU CAN’T SAVE THE WORLD
When you are fueled by a passion so immense that you feel like you can’t stop until the world is exactly what you want. It can really lower your morale. As exciting as it is to be a part of a change, you have to remember that it’s not your only job to fix the world. As I was once told, you can’t change the world, but you can make a change in the world.
Not everyone will be because you are passionate about something. Mental health Advocate, in particular, is so marked by a stigma that if you raise your voice it will be heard by many people; some of which will want to turn it off. People will try to bring you down and some days you will want to give up. But learning your limits, taking care of your sanity, and being resilient will keep you going. No matter how many breaks you have, if you always get up and fight, that’s a sign of a good defender.