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Introduction to Health Policy and Advocacy

SAMHSA - Mary Ellen Copeland, M.S., M.A.

If you experience troubling emotional or psychological symptoms,like depression, bipolar disorder or manic depression, schizophrenia, borderline personality disorder, obsessive-compulsive disorder, dissociative disorder, post traumatic stress disorder, an eating disorder, or an anxiety disorder, you may be looking for some information and support on speaking out for yourself.

Perhaps you have forgotten that you have the same rights as other people. Maybe, you may have come to feel that you have lost the power to ask for what you want and need. You may have struggled so much that you have become discouraged, just a little, or maybe deeply.

If you have been having a very hard time, others may have taken control over your life; they may be making most or all of your decisions. They may be doing a reasonable job of this, but you want to take back control. Perhaps you simple want others to treat you with the dignity and respect you deserve.

Whatever your situation, you should know that you have rights, power, and worth that no one, and no system, can interfere with for long if you effectively speak for yourself.

Even if you feel you have never advocated effectively for yourself, you can learn to become your own best champion. Being a good self-advocate means taking personal responsibility for your own life, putting yourself back in charge and staying there. Speaking out means insisting that others respect your rights and treat you well.

A little bit of hope and self-esteem can help you take the first steps to speak for yourself, and your actions in your own behalf will then increase your sense of hope and self-esteem. This upward spiral helps to relieve troubling psychiatric symptoms and supports you so you can do the things you need to do to make your life the way you want it and do the things you want to do. It all starts and ends with you; you have the right to ask for as much help as you need.

People who have been disabled for many years have taken back responsibility for their own lives. As they have done this, their lives have changed dramatically. A man from Seattle has had episodes of major depression for many years and has found that being a strong advocate for himself and others has been essential to getting his depression under control. He says, "People need to know and demand their rights in all types of situations from treatment to housing to employment; and they need to know the alternatives available in different situations. Empowerment and recovery start from the inside when you begin to take charge of all aspects of your life."

You are a unique and valuable person. You have the right to advocate for yourself, to protect your rights and insist that others treat you well.

The steps that follow will lead you through the process of becoming an effective advocate for yourself. You probably will want to work on these steps slowly, one at a time. With persistence, you will find you become better and better at speaking out for yourself.

 


Sourced from Speaking Out For Yourself: A Self-Help Guide, SAMHSA booklet SMA-3719