What does it mean to be a mental health advocate in India? It starts with BELIEF followed by the crystal clear intention and courage to follow an unconventional path.
I have been strongly advocating mental health since 2017 and doing my bit to raise awareness about mental illnesses that are never talked about. If you look at it, what I am doing is not a big deal or something out of the world, but is important that we talk about it.
I am trying to help people understand how emotions and feelings can affect a person’s life. How our inner demons can take power over us and control our complete life?
In this blog, I am sharing a few ideas behind my mental health advocacy, challenges I faced in the process of becoming a mental wellness promoter, and the most important part, how can you become a mental health advocate too?
Who is a Mental health advocate?
That someone putting up “I Am THERE” on their Whatsapp status, and judging others? That someone portraying an empowering picture and demeaning someone behind his/her back? That 2 points someone failing to empathize with others and making fun of their feelings can never be a mental health advocate.
Now, you don’t need to be a psychologist or therapist to become a mental health advocate. Neither you need to be someone who is going through some disorder, you just need to be that SOMEONE who believes in this other side of the world and works towards its inclusion and acceptability.
You can be a mental health advocate if you can be honest about your feelings if you are ready to share your story to help others if you can help others by just listening to them non-judgementally, and if you can work tirelessly to bring about some change around you.
Our society has been shaming people with disabilities for a long time, the ones who carry invisible wounds, wear a bandaid to hide each scar they carry and continue with their lives, but has anyone ever thought how lonely they might be from inside?
As a society, as a family, it is easy to mock someone down, it is easy to judge, and very easy to give some bunch of unsolicited advice. But don’t you think the one who is going through some inner war must have already tried and tested everything?
So before you decide to become a Mental Health Advocate, drop all your judgment abilities, remove all the filters you apply to see a person, change your optics, be flexible with your perspective, practice empathy, learn the right language, and educate yourself.
Challenges I faced to become a mental health advocate
Now, this reminds me of a very interesting incident which happened a few years back. I had a family member who is a psychologist and when I started writing about mental health somehow she got offended, god knows why. I was totally unaware of the subject of psychology, so I thought of educating myself and registered for NET.
I bought books, started preparing for the exam. Back then, I had no one to guide me in this field, but I knew I have to educate myself in the field of psychology. So I decided to prepare myself for Ph.D. Later, I published my first ebook “26 Days 26 Ways for a happier you” and in my Author bio, I mentioned my preparation for Ph.D., just to give my readers an idea about my future plans and my intention.
Reading this, the lady got furious and felt offended because she is a Ph.D. too. I had nothing to do with her, but she kept on poking me and she proved that all the psychologists are not empaths and if they are not doing what they are supposed to do, they cannot see others doing it who have no proper qualification or expertise in the subject.
Although I would be generalizing psychologist, if I make this statement, but this is how I felt at that point in time. We are just the medium, ultimately the person who needs help will go to the psychiatrist or the psychologist only.
I felt bad, but honestly, this whole incident gave me a new perspective, that to do a good thing, a thing you believe in, you do not need a higher degree or any accolades, all you need is a clear INTENT and COURAGE to follow what you started.
I was also criticized by my friends for choosing mental health as my niche because it lacks the entertainment quotient you see. Who will read me or watch my videos? Were their remarks, because we are judged by the number of followers and viewership we receive. But I never stopped, and eventually, I have been able to change their mindset with my consistent work.
I am proud of what I am doing today. I am being a voice for many out there. I am being able to spread some positivity through my words. To continue my work in a better way, I did 6 certification courses to educate myself which include Mindfulness and NLP.
Presently, I am studying Cognitive Behavioural Therapy to educate myself and to help people increase their mental health and wellbeing. I send hand-written letters to strangers every month and I reply to each and every email/DM/Messages I receive. I have received a lot of love and warmth as a reward and that keeps me going.
Can you be a mental health advocate?
Hell yes, You Can! The question is will you be able to sacrifice what it takes to become a mental health advocate? It will need your time, patience and it might not make you rich and famous.
If you want to become a content creator around mental health and want to get collaborations or get paid to speak or write on mental health, you will have to prove your credibility first. Mental health is as important as physical health and when you are sharing and information/tips/hacks or even a personal story it should be reliable, relatable to the audience and of some value to them.
Therefore, your intention should be apparent; you will have to say No very often, you will have to check for the verified source of information and educate yourself a little to be able to deal with someone who approaches you with his/her problem.
I don’t think it is too much to ask for, if you are someone who has been through some deep shit holes in their life, then you will surely want to help others get through their tough time, isn’t it?
If you are someone who is in a state of good mental health but feels the need to fill the gap, then you can become a mental health advocate too.
Speaking about mental health, promoting content around mental health, and normalizing the disorders could be the initial steps to this advocacy and more than enough for someone who wants to join the cause of mental health awareness and be the torchbearer for others.
To conclude, I would say that difficulties in our do not come to destroy us but to bring out the best in us. We carry a lot of stories inside us and only we have the ability to turn our pain into someone’s survivor guide. The more we talk about it, the more we add hope and sunshine to someone else’s darker days. Rise up!
Priyanka Nair is the author of 26 Days 26 Ways for a Happier you and Ardhaviram. An NLP practitioner and Founder of Sanity Daily, helping you prioritize your mental health. Let’s build a happy community.