Independent Advocacy needs to be available to all who need it

Independent Advocacy needs to be available to all who need it


Hi, my name’s Jo, and among other things, I’m a user of mental health services. My journey through the psychiatric system has not always been easy and at times I’ve needed an advocate to help me express my views when I felt I wasn’t being listened to, or didn’t trust the people looking after me to make decisions that were in my best interests.

Having access to independent advocacy safeguarded my rights and enabled me to take an active role in my recovery. I’m here today telling you this because advocacy saved my life and I want everyone who needs this help to get it.

I’m going to share with you now a poem about how independent advocacy helped me when I was in hospital.

Stand By Me

When I was broken, on my knees,
silenced by the weight of living,
on the brink of giving up,
an advocate came by
and deftly opened up my voice
by listening, simply listening.
Soon the cage became a key,
the words ran free
and hope took root within me.

Together we unravelled all the knots,
sought clarity in breaking down the problem,
put the jigsaw back together in a workable solution.

Ready now to voice my vision
to the doctors, nurses looking after me,
I asked my advocate to stand beside me
as I still felt vulnerable and small,
faced with an impenetrable wall
of professional power.

We walked into the meeting, took our place.
I saw respect light up the faces of my gaolers
as I spoke the words, tentative at first,
then full of confidence, conviction
as they soon began to listen.
My advocate sat quietly by my side,
didn’t have to interject
but for the blanks in memory
caused by the haze of medication.

We came to a solution
which I felt I could accept with grace.
I didn’t get discharged as I had hoped
but in the course of being listened to
my gaolers had become my carers
and the treatment plan became a contract
which empowered me.

By standing with me on the journey
my advocate had helped to set me free.
I left the ward soon after with my head held high
because the roots of confidence and hope
she planted in me now had grown into a tree.

One Response to Independent Advocacy needs to be available to all who need it

  1. Jan Barber-Maltby says:

    Jo, what a fantastic story. Congratulations and well done.
    I too, have had experience with trying to get help through the psychiatric system, mental health organisations, not for myself, but my daughter Helen.
    From the day she was born, she was a problem child, she didn’t sleep, didn’t walk until she was almost 4, she bottom shuffled. It was first thought that Helen had muscle wasting disease. The Orthopaedic Consultant, after many tests, found that she may have learning difficulties, she couldn’t co-ordinate. However, Helen, by the time she was school age had developed ADD/ADHD, and was borderline Aspergers/Autistic, this wasn’t recognised at primary school and was classed as a wild animal.
    Helen saw her first psychiatrist at just 3 years old, she had violent aggressive behaviour, didn’t sleep through the night until she was eight years old. I was offered Ritalin to calm her, my reaction was one of horror, drugs were the last resort if she didn’t improve.
    I became her advocate, at High School, she was offered the chance of one-to-one tution under LEA if she could be statemented, very difficult at 11 years old (9 years in real terms). Helen was turned down twice and I was going to an Appeal Tribunal, I said that no-one was listening to me, the reason for Helen’s behaviour is pure frustration because she has no short term memory, her co-ordination was slow and she found everything difficult. Eventually she got her extra tuition after much wrangling.
    Helen has three personalities, a child, a teenager and can be a sensible adult, and she is of course much calmer now. Helen was a victim of bullying, ridicule and locked into a classroom on her own, like an animal in a cage.
    Helen passed her NVQ’s in Health and Social Care, she has had RBLI, myself and SCOPE and Gateway Training to help her.
    I have been with her every step of the way, I have been her voice, still am in certain situations. I raised Helen as a single parent and I have learnt patience and understanding of mental health. Helen, like yourself, has found her confidence and achieved so much for herself.
    Mental Health patients need A VOICE, better still the Government needs to LISTEN.
    Good luck in all your ambitions Jo, you are an inspiration to others.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

 characters available

Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.