Your loved one is struggling with their mental health, has complex needs, or needs help navigating the mental health system. As their parent, caregiver, or guardian, there is only so much you know or can do. This is when a mental health advocate can be of assistance. Unlike what one might think, a mental health advocate does not micromanage a treatment program.
An advocate empowers the client or family to speak up for themselves by equipping them with knowledge and insight into their condition and how best to tackle it. An advocate’s role behind the scenes or in coming alongside is important for a patient since the patient’s voice of self-advocacy within the mental health system is key. Having the skills to be able to express needs, wants, and concerns will help you and your loved one get the best care possible.
Self-Advocacy is an Important Quality to Have
Self-advocacy is important when navigating the medical care system, but is also essential when it comes to managing mental health and living a full life. The Learning Disability Association of America (LDA) has outlined three key points to help someone become an effective self-advocate:
1. Knowing how your disability affects you;
2. Understanding the environment, supports, and services needed to access information, participate in discussions or interactions, and excel at work;
3. Identifying your strengths and which strategies work best to help you succeed.
Having this knowledge is important. It provides context and clarity as to what information will benefit you and your loved one’s mental health. A mental health advocate can support you in developing these skills. They will be able to support you by answering questions, providing resources, and helping make sense of the system.
How Can a Mental Health Advocate Help?
Mental health advocates are knowledgeable and experienced in the mental health system. They often provide support to those struggling with their mental health, their family, and their caregivers. They are able to advocate on the client’s and the family’s behalf, working towards the best possible outcome. Your mental health advocate can also provide you with information about available resources in the community or specialized programs around the country and explain how to access them.
Types of Advocates
There are many types of advocates that fall into the advocacy field. The most familiar type of advocate for parents, caregivers, and guardians is an IEP advocate. This type of advocate helps families navigate special education, whether it is a 504 plan or an Individualized Educational Plan. These advocates have specialized knowledge to help coordinate services, advise the family and make sure the student is receiving an appropriate education, services, accommodations, or making the appropriate progress, etc. Here is a link to read more about an educational advocate who specializes in special education.
There are also advocates that are specialized in different areas such as but not limited to: cancer or medical support, legal advocates for seniors and people with disabilities, and even those who advocate for policy change. Depending on the type of support your loved one needs, you may need to look into the different types of advocates available. Advocates are typically specialized in one area and serve the purpose of being your and your loved one’s voice in the system.
This type of advocate is a person who supports a client and their family through the healthcare system. This can include help with understanding a diagnosis, navigating the system, and getting the best care. A medical advocate is knowledgeable about healthcare systems and services and has experience with working in the medical field. They are able to help you and your loved one understand their diagnosis, treatments, medications, resources available, and how to access them.
They also may support you by setting up appointments, providing resources to help understand insurance policies, or navigating the legal aspects of medical care. Your medical advocate, depending on who you work with, may also handle working with case managers, employers, billing clinics, or the insurance company. These advocates heavily focus on direct patient care, empowering clients to be more involved and informed consumers.
Health Insurance Advocates
A mental health insurance advocate can provide clients with tailored behavioral health claims management. Services, delivered with compassion, might include; verification of benefits, facilitation of an appeal process, utilization review, and tracking of claims. Read here to learn about one father, whose personal experience navigating insurance for a child with cerebral palsy, turned into a mission to help others receive due compensation from their insurance company with minimal delay.
Legal Advocates For Seniors and People With Disabilities Insurance Advocates
Legal advocates are individuals who support you and your loved one through navigating the legal system. This type of advocate specializes in protecting the rights of seniors and people with disabilities, as well as providing resources to help you access the services and support needed. Legal advocates understand the regulations and laws protecting seniors and people with disabilities.
They also have a working knowledge of the system to help with filing paperwork, appealing decisions, understanding insurance policies, and accessing services. By having a legal advocate on your side, you and your loved one will have the support needed to protect their rights and get the help they need. Legal advocates provide a sense of security for those who are facing various legal issues and can help you navigate the system.
Advocate for Policy Change
Ultimately, advocates for policy change will not be working directly with you and your loved one, but indirectly on their behalf. Advocates for policy change typically work together in groups with other advocates and citizens to push for social or legislative change that will benefit those struggling with their mental health or disabilities. They work to create lasting change that will benefit the least advantaged in our society.
Advocates for policy change speak up and bring attention to issues that are often overlooked. They do research, talk to legislators, and organize campaigns to create awareness about the issues facing people with disabilities or mental health disorders. These advocates also work to ensure that those most affected by the policies in place are heard and taken into consideration.
Why Should I Consider an Advocate?
Having an advocate on your side can provide you with the resources and support you need to help navigate the mental health system. They can be the voice for you and your loved one when it comes to understanding the process, accessing resources, and advocating for policy change. You don’t have to feel lost in the system, the medical jargon, or dealing with case managers. Having an advocate on your side can help you feel more secure and supported throughout the process. More reasons to consider an advocate are:
They are a Neutral Party
Having a neutral expert on your team in the process can be beneficial when navigating the system and making decisions about treatment. They can assist you and your loved one in processing information or experiences related to treatment that might be unfamiliar and overwhelming. If you have questions, they can help answer them and provide resources to help understand the situation.
They are Knowledgeable About the System They Work With
An advocate is knowledgeable about the system. They understand how the laws, processes, and practices work and can provide you with the resources needed. Your advocate will be able to guide you through the process, provide resources, and help you understand the situation.
School Advocates are In Your Community
If you are looking for a school advocate, it is best to look around in your community. Another way to seek a school advocate is to see who other parents have used and been pleased with. This way, you know the school advocate is familiar with the system and can provide you with the best services.
Be Proactive, Don’t Wait Until It’s too Late
When seeking an advocate for yourself or a loved one, it is best to be proactive. Don’t wait until the situation feels heightened and there is chaos in the system. Start the process early and don’t be afraid to ask for help. An advocate can help you and your loved one understand the system, make informed decisions, and help create a plan that works best for them and their needs. It doesn’t have to be an issue with a tissue. Get out in front and find an advocate that is right for you and your loved one.
Interested in Working With a Mental Health Advocate to Support You or Someone You Love? Contact Morgan Guidance Services Today!
It’s not your job to know how every system works. They are all complex and ever-changing. That’s why working with a mental health advocate can be so helpful. At Morgan Guidance Services, we understand the unique complexities of navigating the mental health system and are here to help! Our mental health advocates are experienced in navigating the various healthcare systems and services and have experience working in the medical field.
Don’t wait until you need a tissue to face the issue. Get out in front and contact Morgan Guidance Services today to start working with a mental health advocate right away! If you’re interested in creating a clear path forward, let’s connect:
- Book a complimentary consultation
- Talk with one of our educational consultants
- Have Someone Become Your Advocate!
Other Educational & Therapeutic Services We Offer
In addition to placement for therapeutic boarding schools, we also offer support for long-term planning for individuals with ASD. As well as patient advocacy, transition planning, and career counseling.
About the Author
Elaine Morgan, founder of Morgan Guidance Service, is an experienced Educational and Career Counselor, Patient Advocate, and Health and Wellbeing Coach trained by Duke Health. With a focus on empowering families, Elaine combines her personal experience as a mother of seven adult children with her expertise to assist parents, guardians, and caregivers in navigating mental health challenges. Through tailored consultations, she supports and guides families in finding the right solutions for their loved ones while prioritizing their own well-being. Contact Elaine today to embark on a transformative journey toward improved mental health and well-being.