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What is Advocacy?

ADVOCACY

By definition, advocacy is "the act of speaking, writing or acting in support of something or someone." "Speaking out" doesn’t have to mean giving a speech — it can also mean writing a letter, sending an email, participating in a meeting, showing up to a rally. There are many ways to make our voices heard!

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WHY DOES IT MATTER?

Everyone who experiences mental illness deserves the right mental health services and supports at the right time. With those key supports in place, recovery is possible. To make that happen, we have to let elected officials, the media and the general public know what's needed. 

NAMI Wisconsin's first-ever Action on the Hill mental health advocacy day at the Capitol!

NAMI Wisconsin's first-ever Action on the Hill mental health advocacy day at the Capitol!

LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY

Working with individual lawmakers (For all practical purposes, these terms mean the same thing:  lawmakers = policymakers = legislators) and lawmaking (legislative) bodies to gain support for your cause or initiative, for the needs of a specific population, for an organization or group of organizations, or for specific services. For more information, go to the Understanding Wisconsin's Mental Health System page.

 

LEGISLATIVE ADVOCACY VS. INDIVIDUAL ADVOCACY

There is no guarantee that sustained effort will lead to success; but there is an absolute guarantee that a lack of sustained effort will lead to failure.

Individual advocacy is helping someone navigate a particular situation, whereas legislative advocacy is an ongoing process of working to improve the policies that affect those situations. There are many activities that go into that process. To learn more about those activities, go to the Understanding Wisconsin's Mental Health System page. To stay updated on current issues, sign up for Action Alerts

This analogy is helpful in making the distinction between legislative and individual advocacy:

Imagine someone lost in a forest without a trail. You can go to them and guide them through the woods (individual advocacy). You can even give them a map to make the journey easier (individual advocacy). Or, you can work with others to create a path so that everyone finds their way (legislative advocacy or "systems change").

Note: Some content in this section was adapted from the Community Toolbox and can be found here.