Advocacy means getting support from another person to help you express your views and wishes, and to help make sure your voice is heard. Someone who helps you in this way is called your advocate.
Unfortunately, having a mental health problem can sometimes mean that your opinions and ideas are not always taken seriously, or that you are not always offered all the opportunities and choices you would like. This can be difficult to deal with, especially when you need to communicate regularly with health care professionals, or other professionals.
What does an advocate do?
How your advocate helps you is up to you – they're there to support your choices. For example, they can:
- listen to your views and concerns
- help you explore your options and rights (without advising you in any particular direction)
- give you information to help you make informed decisions
- help you contact relevant people, or contact them on your behalf
- accompany and support you in meetings or appointments
An advocate will not:
- give you their personal opinion
- solve problems and make decisions for you
- make judgements about you
For information about the sorts of problems advocates can help with, see our page on working with an advocate.
My best ever advocate could sit and listen to it all pour out, however ill I was. Then help me get it into words that the people I needed to listen would take seriously.
Who can be my advocate?
There are lots of different kinds of advocate you could approach, depending on your situation and the kind of support you want. For example:
- You can access a professional advocacy service through some organisations and charities.
- Your friends, family, or carers can act as an advocate for you.
- You can also be an advocate on your own behalf (called self-advocacy).
See our page on types of advocacy for more details about who can be an advocate, and how different advocacy services work.
Do I have a legal right to an advocate?
In some circumstances, you may be legally entitled to a professional advocate, such as an Independent Mental Health Advocate (IMHA) or an Independent Mental Capacity Advocate (IMCA) – this is called statutory advocacy. See our page on statutory advocacy for more information on whether this applies to you, and how to access this kind of advocacy.
Advocates are so important!... Mental illness at times can make it hard to do what needs to be done, [to] stand up for yourself, to be listened to or taken seriously.
This information was published in August 2015. We will revise it in 2017.