Over 145 million people in India, or 10.67% of the country’s population of 1.3 billion, suffer from some form of mental illness. Even though a growing number of people are experiencing deterioration in mental health, the stigma around mental health and seeking help continues to prevail in our society. Although the acceptance of mental illness has come a long way over the past decades, there is still a long way ahead towards a stigma-free society, where people who have mental illness feel supported and accepted, rather than being ill-treated and looked down upon. Mental health advocacy is a path through which we as responsible and rational members of society can reduce this discrimination and promote the rights of persons with mental illness.
What is mental health advocacy?
Mental health advocacy includes a variety of different actions aimed at changing the major structural and attitudinal barriers to achieving positive mental health outcomes in populations. It is the process through which people are made aware of mental health issues and involves helping others to express their views, defending the rights of people with mental health problems, and influencing policy, to positively impact those who are affected by mental illness.
If we want to be advocates for those who are struggling with their mental health, we must first learn to be advocates for ourselves. This entails being true to ourselves, respecting ourselves, and upholding our values regardless of external circumstances.
How can one be an advocate?
Becoming a mental health advocate will require both major and minor actions — everything counts!
You can stand up for others by simply sharing your story of struggle. If you’re not comfortable and ready, you don’t have to share. You can also:
- Support someone who needs help.
- Volunteer for a local mental health organization.
- Encourage your religious leaders, policymakers, and influencers to prioritize mental health
- Inform those who are stigmatizing mental health
We can continue the mental health movement by speaking out and showing others that they are not alone. If we cannot take steps to improve our stereotypical depiction of mental health, and mental illness, nothing will change. ‘People living with mental health are just that – people; and deserve to be treated with the same respect and kindness as anyone else.’ The concept of mental health advocacy is relatively new but it has brought significant positive changes in the attitudes and actions of societies towards mental illness.