On World Mental Health Day, Let’s Deepen “Mental Health Advocacy”

World Mental Health Day always comes and goes predictably. Folks post 1–800–273-TALK, encourage others to reach out for help, and the next day, go right back to self-righteously bullying, oppressing, shaming, and traumatizing people in their lives. So let’s discuss what real mental health advocacy actually means.

Real mental health advocacy is a courageous and ethical worldview that centers community welfare and human dignity — individually, institutionally, and societally — in the face of relentless exploitation and injustice.

Real mental health advocacy is organizing to preserve essential public services like early childhood education, food stamps/EBT, Medicaid/Medicare, Section 8, and Social Security — in the face of a self-interested government that devalues humanity.

Real mental health advocacy is affordable housing, livable wages, rehabilitation over incarceration, safe schools, solutions to homelessness, universal healthcare, and the eradication of medical racism, the prison-industrial complex, voter suppression, and corrupt courts and police.

Real mental health advocacy is denouncing neo-Nazi, white supremacist terrorist groups like Proud Boys, and outlets like Breitbart, that fabricate conspiracies to disenfranchise and scapegoat folks who are Black/Native/POC, disabled, LGBTQ+, immigrants, non-Christian, and/or women.

Real mental health advocacy is not shirking active citizenship because you will not benefit directly, or because change will not happen in your lifetime, or because you can rationalize your apathy by dismissing activism as secular and worldly — til, of course, the problem hits home.

Real mental health advocacy is knowing that the media deceives, the world is unfair, and politicians lie, but that nothing excuses shrugging and surrendering to systematic inequality and targeted persecution — especially not while calling everyone but yourself a sinner.

Real mental health advocacy is reflecting on why it feels fine to be so detached and desensitized that you can not empathize with folks individually, nor collectively, yet expect other oppressed groups to care about your oppression as you dismiss theirs.

Real mental health advocacy is a lifelong commitment to [un]learning, listening and receiving feedback as much as lecturing, understanding how impact can trump good intention, and caring who you are trampling over in your own struggle — then humbly admitting it and changing, day by day.