I recently supported a friend who was struggling to get the help she needed from a mental health service. When she called, she was put on hold or fobbed off and this was causing her great distress. I offered to call the department for her. I was slightly removed from the situation, not distressed and armed with knowledge about what she was entitled to.
I was her advocate – it led to us being put through to the right people who were able to get provide the support she needed that week.
Things like this happen all the time. I can think of times (to my shame) when I’ve been the one on the end of the phone blocking someone! It’s not malicious, it’s just priorities, perception or criteria and sometimes only the people slightly removed can work through that with the ‘blocker’.
So…..do we need to make sure information about local ‘advocacy’ support is available to people who struggle to get the support they need? Yes, but maybe we need to keep this professional service for those more complex situations.
Knowledge empowers – imagine something as simple as more people knowing more about what support/help is available and how to get it. Knowledge empowers and like me with my friend, when we know what we are asking for, it makes it easier to get what we need. As most of us have experienced, sometimes it’s just too hard to do on our own and so actually, the more people (friends/neighbours/family) who are empowered with knowledge, the more likely an individual will get the help they need.
Equipping the wider community. My friend needed support from a public service, but actually, at that moment – she really needed help from someone who could make a phone call and understood what support should be available to her. People are falling through gaps because accurate, up-to-date information is not easily accessible. It’s just not okay!
No one ‘owns’ general information, I get that, but let’s make sure as service providers, we don’t become complacent or arrogant thinking people can easily find us. Let’s own our specific information and make sure it is published accurately. Then maybe, just maybe we can reduce the gaps ensuring a problem doesn’t become a crisis for those we serve.
So my call to you – the service providers is let’s do our part in sharing information to the wider community. And my challenge to you – the wider community – be ready to be that friend when you meet someone too overwhelmed to do it alone.