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Understanding advocacy – for young people

Information explaining advocacy for young people and how advocates can help you to get your voice heard. Also explains how you can advocate for yourself.

This page is also available in Welsh.

How to advocate for yourself

Advocating for yourself means speaking up about the things that are important to you. You might also hear this being called ‘self-advocacy’.

Young people we spoke to described this as:

  • “It’s being able to speak up for yourself rather than relying on others - having the confidence to say when you don’t think something is right.”
  • “It’s about voicing your opinions rather than sitting back and letting professionals make the decisions for you.”
  • “It’s about being able to explain what you’re feeling and what you’re thinking yourself. And being able to work through what you’re thinking and feeling about certain decisions.”

This page covers:

Is self-advocacy right for me?

Being able to speak up for yourself is really important. But it’s not always easy. For example:

  • You might feel like you don’t know enough about your mental health problem, your rights and the options available to advocate for yourself.
  • You might not feel comfortable or well enough to voice your opinions and questions on your own.

There may be some situations where you feel more comfortable advocating for yourself, and others where you find it more difficult.

Remember: you shouldn’t put any pressure on yourself to self-advocate. But if you feel able to, you can read our tips on how to advocate for yourself and practise some techniques.

Top tips for advocating for yourself

We have listed tips below, which you can use:

  • On your own
  • With the support of family, carers, friends or partners
  • With the support of a professional advocate

Build your confidence and self-esteem

There are lots of things you can do to help you build your confidence and self-esteem, like:

  • Being kind to yourself
  • Looking after your wellbeing and physical health
  • Focusing on the positives
  • Spending time with people
  • Learning to assert yourself

You can find more information on our page about confidence and self-esteem.

Prepare for appointments and meetings

You can easily forget the things you want to say in appointments and meetings. Being prepared can help you to get the most out of them.

You could:

  • Write down what you want to say beforehand.
  • Practise what you might say in your head or with someone you trust. This could be a professional advocate, family member, carer, friend or partner.
  • Bring any information that explains what you want to say.
  • Write a list of questions to take with you.
  • Write down how the meeting or appointment went, and how you felt afterwards.

“It’s about not being afraid to tell whoever I’m talking to that I’ve read about this and I know what I’m talking about’. It's having confidence in your knowledge.”

Find information

The type of information you need will depend on your situation and what’s going on for you.

Here are some places you can look for information:

“Being interested in my care, I like to get as much information as I can.”

Think about what you feel is wrong and how it could be better

Spend some time thinking about what feels wrong and how this is affecting you. Then think about how the situation could be better, or what you change you want to see.

You could write this down if you’d find that helpful.

“If you don’t agree with something you can stand up and say that.”

Think about who you need to talk to

Write a list of the people you need to talk to about what’s going on for you.

If you’re not sure who they are, you could ask your care co-ordinator if you’re getting treatment and support through CAMHS, or a nurse if you’re in hospital.

Ask for help

Just because you’re advocating for yourself, that doesn’t mean you can’t get extra support from a professional advocate.

An advocate could help to answer any questions you have around self-advocacy. Or they could support you with situations you find difficult.

You can also get support from family members, carers, friends or partners.

Remember: you’re not alone.

You can find more information on our page on advocacy and mental health.

“I learnt how best to go about solving a problem [with my advocate]. I noticed that for each problem, we’d go through the same steps and the same logical way of thinking through things. I still find myself doing that now.”

Try not to feel disheartened by setbacks

Even if you have a clear idea of what’s wrong and how to make it better, you might still find it difficult to make others understand.

You can’t control what other people do and you shouldn’t let their actions stop you from trying.

“Sometimes the way medical professionals talk to you can be slightly patronising. If that does happen or you feel like you’re not being taken seriously, don’t let it discourage you. Carry on.”

Tips from young people we spoke to

  • “Have faith in yourself. You know your mind and body best.”
  • “Be persistent and follow up to make sure that progress is being.”
  • “Make time for personal care.”
  • “Journal or write to keep your thoughts organised.”
  • “Stay strong and keep fighting! You may get knocked down along the way, but don’t forget what you are fighting for.”

Advocating for yourself can be difficult, so it’s important to take care of yourself.

See our page on looking after your wellbeing for more information.

“Now I feel like I can be an advocate for myself as I feel much more confident and independent. However, when you're feeling more vulnerable, it can be difficult to do this.”

This information was published in February 2022. We will revise it in 2025.

References are available on request. If you would like to reproduce any of this information, see our page on permissions and licensing.

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