Do you want to tell your mental health story to inspire others? Do you want to start your own mental health club at your school? Do you want to start volunteering at your local mental health organization to spread awareness?
There are so many ways to spread awareness for mental health out there but it can be extremely difficult to know where to start. You might have a dream of helping others, writing a book, or traveling the world telling your story and that is AWESOME! Every dream starts with an idea and continues with action.
I have 6 years of mental health advocacy under my belt both online and in my day-to-day life. There are so many things I wish I knew when I first started my advocacy journey. Here are 5 things I wish I knew before I became an advocate (LEARN FROM MY MISTAKES!!)
Don’t Have Expectations
When I first started my mental health journey I had so many GRAND expectations. I wanted to be as big as the Youtubers and bloggers that I looked up to, help as many people as I can, have all the nice comments, sponsorships, panels, speeches, EVERYTHING! It is a lot of work to be an advocate and I had no idea what I was getting myself into. Advocacy is not a competition. If you believe you are going to be famous by being an advocate then this lifestyle is not for you. It’s great to have big goals for your journey but you should start with more obtainable goals.
I started by creating my channel and becoming more involved in the community. I also joined a local mental health organization and started talking about my story. It’s great to have expectations of the things you want to achieve. Write them down somewhere and keep them near. Whenever you start feeling lost in your journey, pull out the list to remind yourself of your path.
Find your Niche
I hate to be the one to burst your bubble but you can’t help everyone. When I first started I had no idea where to begin. I was passionate about talking about a lot of different things and my content was all over the place. It can be so easy to want to help everyone but in reality that is just not possible. Instead of pulling yourself in every direction, try and narrow down what you want to focus your advocacy on. Do you have a specific mental health condition that you have lived experience with and want to help others? Do you want to spread awareness for college suicide or sexual assault? Are you passionate about the political side of the health care system and want to advocate for change? Find that one thing that you are passionate about and focus your advocacy on it.
Here are some good examples.
AnxiousLass is a great resource for blog posts on social anxiety. The author, Kel, could not find relatable advice about social anxiety so she created some! She writes about social anxiety in a relatable and fun way!
Becky suffers with a disorder called Trichotillomania which is a hair pulling disorder. In her video series, TrichJournal, she shares the reality of what it is like to live with this disorder.
End the Stigma started as a Facebook post about sharing openly about your mental health and it evolved into a very successful Facebook page. They post about talking about your mental health and getting help!
Bottom line is there is a niche for everything you are passionate about. You need to choose a niche so everyone knows what your cause is. This also helps you become an expert on your specific topic!
Stop calling it a dream and start making a plan! It can be nerve racking to start talking openly about mental health but you have to start somewhere. If you want to start talking about mental health online, then start a blog or YouTube channel TODAY! If you want to write that self-help book that has always been in the back of your mind, DO IT!! If you want to travel and share your story of recovery and wellness, call a local mental health organization and ask how you can contribute! Your dream is not going to happen overnight but you can work hard everyday to get one step closer.
Connect with Other Advocates
This is a team effort people! It’s amazing to connect with other people who believe in your same cause. The mental health community is FILLED with amazing people who do AMAZING things. Whenever I see my online friends or are surrounded by other volunteers at a walk, I get inspired! Last month I met my online friend at the capital where he gave a speech about the online mental health community and how f’ing amazing we are. Never be afraid to reach out to other advocates, ask questions, or get involved in the conversation.
Remember Self Care
Talking about mental health all the time can be extremely draining. I get messages everyday from people telling me that I helped them or asking for life advice. There are times where I get so consumed in the work that I forget my own self care. Remember to put up boundaries within your activism. You cannot help others if you cannot help yourself. Learn how to read your body and what it needs. When I start to feel overwhelmed I take a step back for a little bit and take care of the things that I need. This helps me stay refreshed and always on top of my game!
I hope these 5 things helped you if you are starting your advocacy journey. Let me know down below how you plan to spread awareness for mental health. Are you writing a book, volunteering, creating a blog, making a club, creating a product? Also, if you are a mental health advocate let us know some words of wisdom down below in the comments!