• Catherine Benfield

Asking for help: Using advocates!





Hi guys!


How are you all? Okay, I hope! This post is about using the services of advocates – my last one was on becoming an advocate – so if you want to learn how to become one click here. If you want to learn more about advocacy and how to ensure you are protecting you and your family whilst contacting advocates please continue to read. There’s some seriously important information in this post. 😊



So, who are advocates?

Advocates can be literally anyone! They can be someone with OCD, a family member of someone with OCD, literally anyone!


Advocates:

  • tend to be people with first-hand experience of a condition, in our case OCD. They want to provide support, information and resources for people who are affected by OCD.

  • educate. OCD is a massively misunderstood condition, even by medical professionals, so our advocates tend to be an extremely passionate bunch.

  • are usually a shining beacon of hope for those dealing with OCD.

  • give a face to the condition.

  • are people someone who understands what you are going through because they’ve been there. Very often advocates are role models for recovery and show that life can be enjoyed after diagnosis.

  • often make resources that help those with OCD.

  • can help people get support, medical help and validate the wide range of emotions you may be feeling.

  • can signpost you to safe help and tell you who to contact. This can save months if not years of trying to figure out the system.

  • stop us feeling alone by sharing highs, lows and the impact on family, etc.

  • can help to change lives.

I’m going to stop there; this list could go on forever! 😊


So, as we can see from above, getting in contact with, or using the resources of, an advocate is a great idea!


But with all things mental health recovery, we need to keep our wits about us. We absolutely need to make sure we keep ourselves protected and safe from incorrect information.

Advocates enter into advocacy so they can support people going through something they’ve been through. They know the pitfalls and what helps, and they hope to make the journey easier for others. Sadly, the best will in the world, doesn’t stop mistakes being made sometimes and incorrect information can cause damage.


This absolutely isn’t a reason to bypass the support of advocates, you just need to know what to look out for and how to know when something may not be helpful.


SO, here’s a rough list of how to use advocates whilst keeping yourself as well-informed and protected as possible.


  • Make sure you know as much as you can about OCD already. That way if you are unintentionally given incorrect information, you stand more chance of spotting it straight away.

  • Stay away from coaches who do therapy! I cannot stress this one enough. We have heard horror stories about people who have paid a fortune for unqualified people to do cognitive behavioural therapy and exposure and response prevention. It’s caused damage and heartbreak. Professional peer support workers will have certification and will work alongside professionally trained therapists.

  • If you are looking for information make it clear. Advocates should not be approached for medical advice, and we absolutely shouldn't be giving it out – we are not professionals. But we can be excellent sources of information and are very good at knowing the best and most reliable sources.

  • Check out the advocate beforehand. Most of us have our own websites and social media pages, take a look at the sort of things we do. Get a rough idea of whether we’d be a good person to approach before you even say hello. And that ABSOLUTELY needs to go for any medical professionals or resources recommended. Check these out first before signing up to anything!

  • Keep an eye out for sponsorship and who works with who. Advocacy is a huge undertaking and advocates absolutely should be financially compensated for their time. Keep any eye out for if your advocate is sponsored by someone and, if they are, feel free to ask questions. Most people will only be sponsored by individuals and companies that they 100% believe in but it always pays to check. Ask if the advocate you’re talking to receives any sort of bonus for signposting you to their sponsor.

  • Keep an eye out for good intentions – make sure the advocate you contact is professional and has your best interest at heart.


Okay, I think that’s it! I’m sorry if that last section was a bit off-putting. Advocacy is one of those areas that are so, so vital but if it goes wrong, it can go very, very wrong. It really pays to know what to look out for. I’ve been advocating for over four years now and I’ve honestly met some of the best people I’ll ever meet. The whole community is full of wonderful, wonderful people who dedicate their lives to trying to help others.

And remember, if you do find yourself in any doubt, there are a ton of professional charities and organisations to go to for support and they are fully trained to deal with any of your questions. There is seriously nothing you can tell them they haven’t heard before. 😊


Lots of love everyone.


Catherine x x

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