Mental Health Awareness Month: The Importance of Being a Self-Advocate

Self-Advocacy: Prioritizing your mental health needs, protecting your boundaries and wellbeing, and establishing your safety and self-respect. 


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May is Mental Health Awareness Month, and to prioritize your mental health and wellbeing, we encourage you to advocate for yourself in your personal and professional spaces. What is self-advocacy? Self-advocacy means making informed decisions and taking actions that enable you to establish your boundaries and protect your mental health and wellbeing. If being a self-advocate sounds like a difficult skill to achieve, that’s because it is. Being a proficient self-advocate is not simple; it will take time and practice for you to feel comfortable speaking up to let others know what you want and need to feel well. Advocating for yourself requires clear communication and transparency with others, and it also necessitates self-awareness through the ability to identify and express your needs and goals. Ultimately, learning self-advocacy skills and applying them in practice will boost your self-confidence and self-competency and empower you to take control of your mental health and wellbeing.

Implications for Interprofessional Collaboration

Self-advocacy is an important skill because it also allows you to advocate for the patients and community you are serving, within your interprofessional team, and for your own professional development. Self-advocacy will look and feel unique for different healthcare professions and in different work settings. In the healthcare space, it may involve advocating for your patients or community to ensure they receive appropriate care and treatment for their preferences and needs. Within an interprofessional team, it can enable you to advocate for your needs in order to contribute effectively to the team. Advocating for yourself and your perspectives in a respectful and collaborative manner can lead to improved communication and shared decision-making. Self-advocacy is also important for promoting inclusivity and culturally responsive care. You have your own cultural background and lived experiences, and by advocating for these perspectives, you can enhance understanding and respect of yourself and others within your interprofessional team.

In a time of significant stress and burnout for healthcare professionals, self-advocacy can give you agency and autonomy in your workspace. Recognize when your work is negatively impacting your mental health, and remember to take care of yourself. This may involve taking mental and physical breaks when needed, or seeking support for stress and burnout. Practicing self-advocacy is good for your mental health and wellbeing, and it models for your peers, colleagues, and patients the importance of making the effort to advocate for their own needs. 

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