It's OK to Be an Ally First, Advocate Second
Reprinted from the NAMI Wisconsin Blog - original post can be found here
Mental health advocacy has come a long way, especially thanks to NAMI and its beginnings in Wisconsin with AMI. So many more people are aware of mental illness and the importance of mental health, and they are proudly speaking up and out against stigma.
Oftentimes, those advocating for mental health and progress for programs and resources are the people experiencing mental illness themselves. It is a powerful tool, because we get to hear real-life stories about dealing with conditions, giving power and validity to the challenges they have to face.
However, just as we learn from these personal stories of mental illness, it can be immensely tiring and demanding to live with mental illness, let alone to talk about and advocate for mental wellness all the time. You can feel sometimes as though you NEED to advocate for yourself, because if you don’t, who will? Your story is empowering the movement and bringing change, so your voice is needed!
But I want to remind you that taking care of your own well-being is the top priority. If sharing your story and talking about mental health challenges wears you down, it is OK to step back. Even if you are not actively advocating for change in the mental health field, believing in and supporting the cause makes you an ally, which is just as important. Taking your medication, going to therapy, practicing self-care, and regulating your emotions are all part of supporting change in mental health, because you are making a difference in the life of someone experiencing mental illness- your own.
Never feel discouraged for being an ally first and an advocate second. If you feel able, you can advocate at any time, but it is ALWAYS OK to put alliance for your own mental health on top.