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Is Being a Mental Health Advocate Worth It?

September 27, 2021 Natasha Tracy

I've been asked if being a mental health advocate is worth it. After all, that could describe my full-time, all-time job. As in, since I became a professional mental health advocate, almost all my days are dedicated to it. Whether I'm doing something for a client or not, mental health advocacy is just something I sleep, eat and breathe. But is being a mental health advocate really worth it?

What Is Being a Mental Health Advocate?

I'm not sure that "being a mental health advocate" has no single definition. You can advocate for mental health in general. You can advocate for those with mental illness. You can advocate for a specific illness in youth. Basically, there are infinite avenues in which mental health can be advocated.

And then there's considering how you want to advocate in your area of mental health. Do you want to advocate for mental health in schools? Do you want to advocate for better, more accessible mental illness treatment? Do you want to advocate to change the laws around mental illness? Again, there are myriad ways of being a mental health advocate. 

Really, any way you want to be a mental health advocate works for me. But make sure to pick what you are passionate about because you can't do it all. (I, for example, tend to stay away from mental illness legislation. There are people who do that far better than I, so I leave them to it.)

What About Being a Professional Mental Health Advocate?

And while any of the above might be a passion for you, you may or may not be able to make a living from it -- and that's okay. If the only people who advocated in the mental health arena were professionals, it would be a very lonely sphere. You may be able to build a career doing it, but keep in mind, people flame out as professionals quite often. Being a mental health advocate is extremely hard and sometimes best left as a part-time passion.

So, Being a Mental Health Advocate, Is It Worth It?

I've been in the professional mental health advocacy sphere for 11 years. I've been writing and speaking about issues around bipolar disorder and mental illness for all that time. While before I became a professional, it was important to me, now that I'm a professional mental health advocate, it's practically my every breath.

And I've had many positive and negative experiences in that time. I've been involved in saving lives -- positive. I've been involved in losing lives -- negative. I've been given awards -- positive. I've received death threats -- negative. I've spoken to rooms of hundreds -- positive. I've had fallow times when I couldn't get enough work -- negative.

You get the idea. There are plenty of good and bad things in this line of work. The good things can lift you sky high, but the bad things can destroy you if you're not careful. And while this is true of part-time advocacy, full-time advocacy turns the risk dial to 11.

So, yes, if you can take care of yourself, draw strong boundaries, and learn to detach from all the people you're trying to help, then yes, being a mental health advocate is worth it. But if your heart is too open or if you can't draw strict boundaries or if you tend to let your work leak into your very being, then being a mental health advocate -- particularly full-time -- may not be for you,

Most advocates have the best of intentions and are amazing people. That doesn't mean that being a mental health advocate is for them, however. As I said, I've seen person after person flame out in this sphere. So be careful. Start small. Don't just jump into full-time advocacy. Learn your lessons when the stakes are minor. And if all that works for you, then move on to bigger things.

And just remember this: mental health advocacy comes in all shapes and sizes, and no matter what your contribution is, as long as it's positive, you've done something great. Go to bed knowing that.

APA Reference
Tracy, N. (2021, September 27). Is Being a Mental Health Advocate Worth It?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2021, December 4 from https://www.healthyplace.com/blogs/breakingbipolar/2021/9/is-being-a-mental-health-advocate-worth-it



Author: Natasha Tracy

Natasha Tracy is a renowned speaker, award-winning advocate and author of Lost Marbles: Insights into My Life with Depression & Bipolar.

Find Natasha Tracy on her blog, Bipolar BurbleTwitter, InstagramFacebook and YouTube.

Lizanne Corbit
September, 28 2021 at 5:43 pm

This is a beautiful read! It's wonderful to see people championing for their passions in a variety of ways. I love your reminder that advocacy comes in all shapes and sizes, it's not about comparing the work we do, but rather celebrating it and one another.

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