By Peter Gamache, Ph.D. & Jackie Sue Griffin, MBA, MS, Turnaround Life, Inc.
The concept of mental health advocacy has developed over the last 30 years to promote human rights of persons with mental disorders, improve services and reduce stigma and discrimination. Consumer and family organizations and related non-government organizations (NGOs) have been able to influence mental health policies and laws and educate the public on the social integration of persons with mental health issues.
Besides educating the public and influencing policy and services, self-advocacy groups also have the benefit of giving its members feelings of self-esteem and empowerment.
The World Health Organization believes advocacy is one of the critical factors in improving mental health treatment and the human rights of people with mental health conditions and that most of the essential functions of an advocacy movement are best performed by organizations independent of the government. Organizations that are tied to the government may not be as free to lobby for changes in policies and laws or to notice human rights violations.
These organizations can be professional and involve only mental health workers or interdisciplinary, including people from various areas. Their unique contribution to the advocacy movement is that they empower and support patients and families.
Advocacy organizations provide many valuable services, including:
- helping provide mental health services to patients and their families;
- supporting consumer and family advocacy positions with the knowledge and expertise of mental health professionals;
- helping patients and families to establish their own organizations;
- providing professional help to consumers and families at times of crisis;
- contributing to the implementation and development of programs for mental health promotion in the general population;
- helping to prevent mental disorders for persons with risk factors;
- raising awareness of mental disorder risk factors and symptoms;
- providing treatment for persons with mental health issues and services for individuals with mental disability;
- improving the organization and quality of services;
- implementing and improving mental health legislation;
- serving as social networks for people with mental disorders;
- helping to create economic opportunities for patients;
- drawing attention to barriers to mental health, such as stigma, lack of services, inadequate care in psychiatric facilities, a lack of information about treatments, abuse, and other human rights violations.
Here at Turnaround Life, Inc., we aim to help organizations and programs that make it possible for people to turn their lives around. For more information about us, visit our website.
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