As a mental health advocate, the most effective tool in your advocacy toolbox is your voice. Therefore, what do you do if you find yourself doubting your voice and most importantly, it’s purpose? This is a question I’ve been batting around my social consciousness for a while now. And a question, that, has left me feeling lost as to which direction my work in mental health should be taking.
Similar, to many fellow advocates and lived experience peers before me, I’ve recently found myself struggling with the idea that my voice will never have the impact I want it to have on the people that matter most; The people living with a maternal mental health illness. And instead, I’ve started resigning myself to leave this important work to the more qualified professionals and larger mental health organisations. As their voices of authority are the ones that command the most influential to listen and therefore, are more capable of making the most change.
These were the thoughts I took with me as I attended the Mental Health Forum 2019 at The World Health Organisation. Along with the thoughts that, I’d leave inspired by the people I’d met and the initiatives I’d learned about, but also, proved right that my individual voice was not big enough to make a difference in the huge global choir of mental health voices. And, that, whilst, my work to date has done some good it would never be anywhere near that impactful as a global organisation and the brilliant minds associated with it.
However, I soon came to realise, that this could not have been further from the truth.
The two day Mental Health Forum, brought together leaders in the world of global mental health. The topics were diverse, offering an insightful and engaging agenda, delivered by some truly talented and passionate professionals from the world of mental health. Amongst the variety of the event discussions, there was one theme that ran throughout. One message that came across loud and clear – Thus, being the importance and power of the individual voice.
As I sat through each session, it quickly became apparent the importance the World Health Organisation and its global partners place on the power of the individual voice. That as vitally important as it is to have support from the top down for mental health services (from governments, education and funding), that without the voices from the grassroot organisations, community champions and the individual mental health advocates, the global mental health goals of the World Health Organisation of “making the invisible, visible” and ensuring “good mental health for all” will not be possible.
I came away from the forum re-empowered thanks to the important reminder, that our individual voices as mental health advocates and peers with lived experience are essential in delivering an authentic and lasting change to mental health, at both a local and global level.
Mental Health Advocacy can at times be a solitary place, especially when working independent of a large organisation. Therefore, it is dangerously easy to forget the power your voice has and the importance of sharing it to make a difference on a subject matter you are passionate about. Therefore, if you are finding your advocacy voice is a bit quiet of late, I have a message for you:
“SPEAK UP! YOUR VOICE MATTERS!”.
Olivia Siegl is a mental health advocate, founder of The Every Mum Movement and author of best-selling book “Bonkers – A Real Mum’s Hilariously Honest Tales of Motherhood, Mayhem and Mental Health” . To join the movement please follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter and sign up to the movement on our website.
If you or someone you know is in need of support with their maternal mental health we have a list of services here.