Advocacy in mental health

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

Your stories

What does the Care Act mean for people with mental health problems?

Helen from our Policy and Campaigns team blogs about the implications of the Care Act.

Helen Undy, Senior Policy & Campaigns Officer
Posted on 23/05/2014

Having my voice heard made all the difference

Andy reflects on his year as a Voice of Mind and having his voice heard in the run up to the general election.

Andy Hollinghurst, Voice of Mind
Posted on 01/05/2015

The night I spent in a cell

Claire blogs about why a police cell was the last place she needed to be during a mental health crisis.

Posted on 27/11/2014

When might I need an advocate?

It is important you feel comfortable with your advocate and feel able to talk to them about your situation. This page covers:

I find it helpful and reassuring to have a third person in the room willing to support my stance... [It] makes me feel far less worried about being misunderstood or having my concerns dismissed.

What questions should I ask my advocate?

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 or if I am in the community?
  • 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 can an advocate help me with?

How you work with an advocate is up to you. Depending on what type of advocacy you access, and what sort of issues you'd like support in handling, an advocate can be involved in different ways. For example, an advocate could support you with:

The support of an advocate is often particularly useful in meetings when you might not feel confident in expressing yourself. They can:

  • support you to ask all the questions you want to ask
  • make sure all the points you want covered are included in the meeting
  • explain your options to you without giving their opinion
  • help safeguard your wellbeing during the meeting – for example, if you find the meeting upsetting, your advocate can ask for a break until you feel able to continue.

Do I need an advocate to complain about my treatment?

You don't need to have an advocate to make a complaint about your care or treatment, however if you want help, there are advocacy services to help you do this. See our pages on complaining about health and social care and seeking help with a mental health problem for more information.

I've found that having my husband in the room with me during assessment appointments means my concerns and questions are more likely to be taken seriously and treated respectfully.

A GP or health appointment

You may have a GP or doctor's appointment you want support with, or you may want support accessing treatment. An advocate can come with you to appointments or help you communicate with your doctor, whether by phone, letter or in person. Our pages on how to seek help for a mental health problem have more information on how to talk to your doctor.

My sister has acted as a mouthpiece for me when I couldn't talk to doctors or psychiatrists about things that were really disturbing me... I would never have got the help I needed without her.

Paul's advocacy story 

Paul and his advocate were able to get him better support from his community psychiatric nurse (CPN) 

A dispute at work

An advocate can support you by helping you understand your rights in the workplace. In some situations, for example, if you feel you are being discriminated against because of your mental health problem, they might be able to speak with your employer on your behalf, or support you during meetings.

See our pages on discrimination at work for more information about your rights in the workplace, and our pages on how to be mentally healthy at work for general information.

Benefit claims and appointments

You may need to:

  • make a benefit claim
  • attend a work capability assessment (WCA)
  • appeal a benefit claim that has been turned down

An advocate can:

  • help you understand your welfare rights
  • support you to claim benefits you're entitled to
  • make phone calls
  • attend appointments with you
  • help you understand the process of challenging a claim

Your local Mind and Citizens Advice can also offer you support and information.

I had my support worker attend work meetings and my [work capability] assessment... I found it extremely difficult to talk to anyone about how I felt and having someone other than a family member in your corner is a godsend.

A housing problem

If you have a housing problem, such as rent arrears, you may feel you need help managing it. An advocate could help you understand your rights around housing and help you talk with local authorities.

  • Shelter offer advocacy services for people experiencing housing problems. They also have a helpline and run face-to-face advice centres in the UK.

You can find more information on dealing with housing problems in our pages on housing and mental health.

My local Mind has been great, often helping me to plan what I need to say in a phone call, then sitting with me while I make the calls.

This information was published in August 2015. We will revise it in 2017.

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