If we took out the issue of mental health, I could probably hazard a guess that the vast majority of 18-25 year olds are unsure of themselves. The world has catapulted them in to adulthood, our confidence on the outside may be intact but on the inside I think we are all afraid to an extent of saying or doing the wrong thing. We don’t get given a how-to guide when we turn 18 that tells us how to navigate those early years when we begin to carve out our own lives. We say the wrong things, do silly things and people pick apart our personalities, our looks, our career choices. Everything is fair game. We seek the approval of those that our older, we want to feel validated by them, and as though what we have to say is important.
Now if we were to add in Mental Health problems…well it certainly makes my head spin. Not only our we trying to deal with adulthood but with Mental Health Problems as well. Not only does that open us up to so many more insecurities and self-doubt but we have to navigate a whole other world that is entirely different and no-one ever bothered to mention existed. If you have a handful of older, educated professionals sat in a room telling you all these things are wrong with you and that they know best…well, it’s kind of hard to argue with that. Firstly you are out-numbered, secondly it seems that everything you say is just going to be dismissed, not only because you are young, but because you are young and ill. Parents and carers, at this point are usually terrified and trust the doctors who they believe are going to bring back their loved one, bring back the person they were before they got ill.
Everything you say at crisis point, in the community or in hospital is usually turned into a symptom, twisted around so that it no longer resembles anything that you meant. Alien environment, mental health problem, young, vulnerable, possibly on a cocktail of medications and little therapy. This is why advocates are needed for Young People with Mental Health Problems. What we have to say is valid. What is happening to us is our business and we have the right to have some input or at least have the logic explained to us. We know ourselves better than a doctor who spends 10 minutes a week with us, but how can we get that across without sounding bitter, unreasonable and resistant against their thinking. Who has the confidence to even try? There were so many times that I tried, only to come away thinking that it would have been better if I had just kept my mouth shut the entire time.
Advocates should play a key part in a person’s care. They are the only ones that don’t have their own agenda. Treatment plans may not be changed but it may go a long way in restoring the confidence of the Young Person. After all, in the end, what we really want is to be listened to, really listened to and feel like there is at least one person on our side. What we say and what the advocates say will be the same thing, but whilst a Young Person may only be able to whisper it, the Advocate can shout it.