Being An Advocate Vs. Being Advantageous

Who doesn’t love the advocacy work Lady Gaga is doing for mental health? She’s a true hero. It’s been bandied about through all forms of media the past few days, & for some it may be repeat, but here’s what she shared at the GRAMMYs if you missed it:
“If you see somebody that’s hurting, don’t look away. And if you’re hurting, even though it might be hard, try to find that bravery within yourself to dive deep and go tell somebody and take them up in your head with you.”
Amazingly real & raw words that the everyday person who faces challenges can understand & relate to. We know: we don’t want folks to look away when we’re struggling…& that it takes actual strength to ask for help. She shoots from the hip & so it resonates profoundly bc she’s “been there.”
The issue as MH has taken on more prominence is that we have heroes, like Gaga, who altruistically speak up for those who need to hear their comforting words & wisdom….while at the same time we also have those who speak bc it’s a hot topic that the media is flocking to. You might ask – why even bring up the latter group? I do so bc there are a LOT of messages out there, from ppl w platforms, some of which unfortunately (& of course this is just opinion) actually set us back & further separate us.
Next time you see someone w a platform talk about MH, ask a few questions: 1) is this message coming from the heart, or are they using canned stats that have been fed to them by a publicist, 2) are they sharing more than just a diagnosis or disorder name (Gaga’s speech is a perfect example of bringing us together around common everyday challenges we face…not glorifying labels), 3) do they talk about the topic consistently & use multiple platforms, over time, to reveal truisms, or are they one-off stories often coinciding w the release of something they’re selling/promoting, 4) do they almost exclusively speak when there is a corporate partner behind it paying them for the brand affiliation w their message, 5) do you ever see them talking about this topic when the lights aren’t on – when it’s not a big time article or morning show & instead a church, prison, homeless shelter, YMCA, etc.
It’s sad we live in a world where ppl of influence take advantage. But when it’s done that way, we hear mostly about disorders labels, erratic behavior, & catastrophes. On the heels of the common perception that this is a “1 in 5” issue, addressing the topic through a platform, by revealing the extreme alone, only furthers the divide, creating this perception that there are sick ppl vs healthy ppl & no in-between.
I want to thank our Global Mental Health Alliance members who I personally have been to school gyms with, prisons, boys & girls clubs, low budget radio stations, driving on single lane highways w during snow storms. Their philosophy is – “I’m going to tell my story & talk about it & even if it gets me no publicity, if it changes one life, it was all worth the effort.” That’s what advocacy is about & that’s what we need more of!

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