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Widespread change starts with the individual. Someone who believes in a cause and is willing to advocate on behalf of it. Doing so isn't always easy. It takes time, energy and perseverance. But when enough of us decide to fight for change, we make that change a reality.

Our community advocacy pillars represent five areas of modern society that are in need of mental health reform — our schools, homes, work environments, places of worship and government institutions. Each pillar offers high-level advocacy recommendations for those willing to get involved on a community level. 

When it comes to family time, mental health advocacy is all about supporting one another when life gets tough, educating ourselves on different conditions and treatment options, and promoting self-care.

Looking to be the mental health champion within your family? Let's dive deeper:


1) Encourage Openness & Vocalize Support

Every family is different. Some talk about everything, others are more reserved. And while certain topics are allowed to be off limits, mental health shouldn’t be one of them. The households were raised in, and the ones we later start ourselves, lay the foundation for who we become. Families that make a point of listening to one another, empathizing with one another, and refraining from judgement have the highest chance of recovering from any mental health problems that arise.

Start the conversation early. Talk about mental wellness and its importance with your loved ones. If you’re a parent, work it into conversations with your kids in childhood. Encourage them to vocalize their feelings and seek emotional support when they feel down. If you’re not a parent, you should still invest time and energy into those around you. Keep an eye out for warning signs and check-in with family members if you think something is off. Share articles or videos about mental health with loved ones who are confused, doubtful or looking to learn more. And never underestimate the power of reaching out and letting someone know you care.

2) Educate One Another on Signs, Symptoms & Treatment Options

No one is born a mental health expert. The topic is complicated, and in many ways, still new territory. That’s why it’s important to spend time and energy educating one another on terminology, symptoms, treatment options and productive coping mechanisms. Learning about what’s happening to our loved ones, will make us better equipped to lend a helping hand.

Education can come in many forms — reading articles, watching videos, talking with professionals, reaching out to local support groups, taking classes. The route you choose to go is dependent on cost, availability, learning style and the problems at hand. Start by reading up on warning signs for anxiety, depression, mania and other conditions. Use the internet as a valuable resource. It’s home to a wide range of free, informative content and materials. Pay attention to loved ones you’re worried about. Research communication tips for discussing mental health problems. Do a deep dive into treatment options, like medication and therapy, as well as lifestyle changes, like exercise or meditation, that can aid in recovery. Make sure to share what you learn. Often times, the best teachers are people we already know. And above all, invest in early detection efforts, such as screenings, and seek professional advice if anything is detected. Don’t wait for situations to worsen before lending a hand.

3) Play a Role in Recovery

Conversation and education are just the beginning. If a family member is actively sick and in need of support, a recovery plan should be put in place. Going through this process alone can feel isolating and difficult. In many cases, people won’t seek treatment without support and guidance from others. That doesn’t mean they don’t want help. It just means that what they’re going through is overwhelming, and that outside motivation may be necessary to get them on the right path.

Supporting recovery is no easy task. It varies tremendously based on the condition at hand and its severity. However, a few things are standard across the board. Maintaining a stable living condition is one. Whether your loved one is living at home or on their own, make sure that their environment is healthy — affordable, clean, emotionally safe (i.e. no toxic roommates). Ideally, they’re living with individuals who are willing to listen and be patient as they navigate recovery. Similarly, promote a healthy lifestyle and encourage family members to lean on exercise, clean eating and mindfulness activities as coping mechanisms. Next, work with a healthcare provider to come up with a course of action — therapy, medication, support groups, mindfulness classes. Identify what can be done outside of professional treatment to reduce spikes and manage a crisis. Write down the signs of a mental health spiral and communicate them to the rest of the family. And finally, encourage hobbies and help keep your loved one busy. Having a sense of purpose and enjoyment in life is huge when it comes to recovery. The more a person feels needed and active, the more likely they are to want to get better.

4) Don’t Bear the Burden Alone

You are not a healthcare provider. You are not doctor. You are not a therapist. And you shouldn’t have to play these roles. Providing emotional support is key, but it should never blur the lines with professional help. Too often people think that an open minded family can cure mental health problems. They can’t. Outside support is crucial. In fact, it’s been shown that it’s better for sufferers when their family is allowed to play the role of cheerleader or champion, while professionals make real strides towards recovery.

Outside support can come in many forms, and it often goes beyond just hiring a therapist or primary care doctor. Look into mentorship programs in your area so that your loved one can find emotional guidance from those beyond their immediate family. Nonprofit organizations, like the Buddy Project, connect sufferers with one another for peer based support. If you’re a parent, lean on teachers, daycare providers, or school counselors to further recovery outside of the home. Make sure that other family members are around and involved as well. It’s not healthy for only one person to be viewed as an ally. Others should reach out, offer help and an empathetic ear. Feeling supported is a group effort. And finally, as technology advances, more and more online tools like chatbots, forums and teletherapy are changing the way we approach mental health. Promote the use of digital community as a means of helping loved ones realize they aren’t alone, they aren’t crazy, and there are so many others out there who are willing to talk.

5) Take Care of Yourself

In order to help others get healthy, you need to be healthy yourself. It’s easy to get so swept up in another person’s problems, that you neglect your own. We are best equipped to support our loved ones when we feel emotionally and physically grounded. That’s why a crucial component of a supportive family, is one that promotes wellness for all, not just those who need the most help.

Set boundaries at home and make sure they’re clear. You’ll need to make tough decisions about the level of support you provide, and what you’re willing and not willing to take on. Do not feel guilty about wanting these in place. You’re human and can only do so much. Give yourself the freedom to take breaks and get away. Do not sacrifice hobbies, relationships or things you love in order to be around 24/7. Even when you face pushback, make it clear that you will not give up on the things that make you who you are. Join support groups or find a therapist to cope with stress, depression and anxiety. Caring for others is emotionally taxing, and just because another family member is the primary focus, does not mean that others aren’t struggling. Reach out to community-based groups, like walking or reading clubs, and stay physically active. Most importantly, be easy on yourself. Anger and frustration are normal. Getting upset is normal. Feeling hopeless is normal. None of these make you a bad person. Just make sure that you’re finding and creating the outlets you need to cope with these emotions so they don’t overshadow the support you’re looking to provide.

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We’re on a mission to change how the world perceives mental health.