for better mental health

Advocacy in mental health

Explains what advocacy is and how it can help you. Gives information on different types of advocacy, including statutory advocates, what sort of situations an advocate can help you with, and how to find an advocate.

How do I find an advocate?

Depending on your situation and what you want help with, there are various organisations that can help you find statutory and non-statutory advocacy services in your local area:

  • Mind Infoline will be able to give you contact details of your local advocacy groups and advocacy organisations.
  • Your local Mind may offer advocacy services. They may be able to offer you information and support in finding out about your rights and entitlements.
  • Rethink Mental Illness has an online directory of advocacy services across the UK on their website.
  • In England: advocacy organisations, such as VoiceAbility and POhWER, provide advocacy services in many areas. You can contact them directly to see if they cover your local area.
  • In Wales: Advocacy Support Cymru (ASC) provides mental health advocacy.
  • If you're specifically looking for a legal advocate, see our page on statutory advocacy for more information.

"[My local] Mind have recently acted on my behalf and having that support has meant I can move forward as I need to... the feeling of anxiety which has been a part of my life for so long has now lifted to a more manageable level."

What questions should I ask my advocate?

It is important you feel comfortable with your advocate and feel able to talk to them about your situation. As a starting point, you may find it helpful to talk to your advocate about how you can work together and what you do – or don’t – want them to do. You may find it helpful to put together some questions to ask them, such as:

  • How will I contact you, and when are you available?
  • What issues can you help me with?
  • What can’t you help me with?
  • Can you come to meetings and appointments with me?
  • Can you work with me if I am in hospital/ not in hospital?
  • What records do you keep and who sees them?
  • What is your confidentiality policy? What things won’t you keep confidential?
  • If you do something I am not happy with, how can I complain?

What if there's no advocacy service in my area?

Unfortunately, if you're not entitled to a statutory advocate, you may find there are limited advocacy services in your area – or none at all. This can be really tough, especially if you feel you don't have people around you who you can ask for support. If you're in this situation, there are still some things you can try:

  • Some organisations, such as Rethink Mental Illness and VoiceAbility, can support you to set up group advocacy in your area. This can involve people with similar experiences of a problem coming together to support each other to have their voices heard. See our page on types of advocacy for more information.
  • If you have people you can ask, a family member, friend or carer could also act as an advocate for you. See our page on types of advocacy for more information.
  • It's not easy, but there may be steps you can take to feel more able to speak up for yourself. See our section on 'Can I be my own advocate?' for more information.

Remember: If you are entitled to statutory advocacy from an IMHA or IMCA , then you have a legal right to that support. You can’t, for example, be told that there is no IMHA or IMCA service in your area, as every local authority has a legal obligation to ensure that there is provision in place.

(See our pages on statutory advocacy, IMHAs and IMCAs for more information about when you are entitled to an advocate).

If you have been denied the support of an IMHA or IMCA, even though you are entitled to one, you should seek legal advice from a mental health or community care solicitor. See Citizens Advice's page on the legal system for more information on how to find legal help and taking legal action.

This information was published in March 2018. We will revise it in 2021.

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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