Speak up for mental health. Stories and visits from local citizens often make a world of difference for decision-makers, the general public and your friends and neighbours.
Look for opportunities to put mental health on the agenda.
Does your workplace have policies that promote the mental health of employees and that offer accommodations for people with mental health problems? Speak up to ask for these types of human resource policies. Is your local health authority (known as a Local Health Integration Network or LHIN) holding a community meeting to ask for citizens’ feedback on the health system? Speak up for mental health services and supports. A municipal, provincial or federal election campaign is another opportunity to raise awareness about mental health issues.
Create opportunities to educate decision-makers.
Talk to your LHIN board members about the importance of integrated mental health services. Go to your local city councillor’s annual barbecue and ask her to ensure that supportive housing is well funded by your municipality. Call and ask for a meeting with your MPP or MP. Most public office-holders don’t know much about mental illness and mental health. They need to hear from citizens about what your concerns are. They often prefer to hear from ordinary citizens rather than organizations.
Talk to the media.
Write a letter to the editor or an article for your newspaper. Call a radio talk-show or contact your local cable TV station and ask them to do a talk show on mental health issues. Speaking up through the media is a good way to educate the people in your community. Decision-makers pay attention to what their constituents are saying in the media.
Speak up during an election campaign.
Provincial, municipal and federal elections provide opportunities to get mental health on the agenda of candidates and political parties. Ask your candidates what their stand is on the key issues facing people with mental illness. Ask them at all-candidates meetings, when they knock on your door, or participate through your local CMHA branch in election activities.
Speak up when there’s a threat.
Keep an eye on current events in your community. Are people protesting the development of a supportive housing unit in your area? Is there an opportunity to attend a meeting to speak up to the neighbours in support of people with mental illness sharing their neighbourhood? What else is happening in your community that might be a threat to the community’s mental health or to people with mental illness? How can you speak up locally?
Speak up when you see inaccurate and hurtful portrayals of mental illness.
Notice how people around you and the media speak about mental illness. Tell the true stories of the struggles and victories of people with mental illness that you know about or have heard about. Ordinary people can break down barriers of ignorance and prejudice and build respect for people with mental illness through speaking up.
Use the Internet.
If you like to communicate through the Internet, there are many ways you can speak up about mental health issues to raise awareness among other web users and to contact decision-makers.