Advocacy is the art of communicating your needs or the needs of someone else in a way that other people can understand for the purpose of fulfilling the individuals needs. Advocacy is especially important when the individual is in a vulnerable position and their voice isn’t being heard by influential people in their life and community. Advocacy allows people to express their views and concerns, access information and services, defend and promote their rights and responsibilities, and explore their choices and options.
For individuals the age of 18 and under, often advocacy can be accessed through the Office of the Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth, this support service can be found through the following link: http://provincialadvocate.on.ca/main/en/about/aboutus.cfm . Children tend to be vulnerable members of our society, their voices aren’t often heard and many times they may end up in situations that are violating their rights as a member of our society so advocating for the wellbeing of children is a critical service. “Advocacy is the catalyst for change, not the change agent” From the site of the Ontario Provincial Advocate for Children and Youth.
In our generation we’ve seen a lot of positive changes in the lives of people with mental illnesses and disabilities, yet we still have a long way to go. In March 2007 Huronia Regional Centre, the institution for individuals closed and a class action law suit was filed against them. This was a huge turning point for patients living at the centre and for all individuals with a disability, it opened doors for them to have their voices heard and their rights respected, it also set a precedent for the rights of all individuals in society. This shift in how society treats individuals whom are vulnerable provides an optimistic perspective for all members of our society.
Stigma is still a huge negative factor influencing individuals with a mental illness and disability and preventing them from accessing their rights as well as fully participating in their community and society. Being judged and treated negatively is one of the biggest barriers preventing individuals from accessing mental health support services and accessing support. Stigma is also a silencing force preventing people from advocating for themselves and others and from sharing their stories and healing. The fear of being judged and being excluded is something everyone worries about but it’s a day to day reality for individuals facing these types of illnesses.
In our generation we are already beginning to see the positive changes, it’s our job to continue making a difference and being productive members of society as well as helping other people access the skills they need to also be productive members of our society.
What is advocacy? (2014, January 1). Retrieved August 28, 2014, from http://www.seap.org.uk/im-looking-for-help-or-support/what-is-advocacy.html
Mission Statement. (2009, January 1). Retrieved August 28, 2014, from http://provincialadvocate.on.ca/main/en/about/aboutus.cfm
Huronia Regional Centre. (2014, August 25). Retrieved August 28, 2014, from http://www.mcss.gov.on.ca/en/mcss/programs/developmental/HRC_history.aspx
Stigma and Discrimination – Canadian Mental Health Association, Ontario Division. (2014, January 1). Retrieved August 28, 2014.