I am a teenager, how do I advocate for myself?

When your child is diagnosed with a mental health disorder, there are many predictable emotional reactions; shock, denial, anger, guilt and grief are all normal stages among family members. Make advocacy the next stage in your journey.

What is Advocacy? Advocacy is many things. It is making sure your child is receiving the best care possible. It is being the voice of your child when they can't speak for themselves. It is supporting a cause. It is fighting for what you believe is right.

You can make a difference in your child's care - become an advocate! Here are a few ways to get started:

  • Educate Yourself

    Do your research and find out as much as possible on your child's illness, treatment options, medication, recovery, public policy and more. Most importantly, reach out to other parents who have been there before.

  • Take Charge and Speak Up

    Take charge in your child's care and speak up! You are the expert in your child's life. Ask questions. Make decisions. Challenge your provider. Express your needs. Voice your concerns. If you aren't feeling listened to, validated or understood, or your values and beliefs aren't being acknowledged or supported, look for a different provider.

  • Take Action and Fight for Others

    Once you are comfortable being an active advocate for your own child, you may be ready to help others. Below is a list of organizations that will get you on the right track and provide the opportunity to fight for the rights of every child living with mental illness.

Advocacy Organizations and Training Programs

Arc Midstate (Advocacy, Resources, and Connections for People with Developmental Disabilities)

Arc is a leader in influencing the development and implementation of public policies that affect the lives of people with developmental disabilities and their families.

NAMI Minnesota

Advocacy efforts are a major part of NAMI Minnesota's mission to support persons with mental illness and their families and to work to enact positive changes in the mental health system.

Parent Advocacy Coalition for Education (PACER)

PACER expands opportunities and enhances the quality of life of children and young adults with disabilities and their families, based on the concept of parents helping parents.

Partners In Policymaking

Partners in Policymaking® is a leadership training program designed for adults with disabilities and for parents of young children with developmental disabilities. The program teaches leadership skills, and the process of developing positive partnerships with elected officials and other individuals who make the policy decisions about services that you and your family use.

Mental Health America

Mental Health America's Advocacy Network is a powerful voice for change that is made up of thousands of individuals nationwide who take an active role in protecting America's mental health through legislative advocacy.

Minnesota Association for Children's Mental Health (MACMH)

MACMH promotes positive mental health for families, from the youngest infant through adolescence. They help families navigate complex systems, connect with peers and become trained leaders. They help youth find their voice and advocate for their rights.

Office of the Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities

An Ombudsman is an official who is designated to assist you to overcome the delay, injustice or impersonal delivery of services. The Office of Ombudsman for Mental Health and Developmental Disabilities is charged under Minnesota Statutes 245.91 - 245.97 with promoting the highest attainable standards of treatment, competency, efficiency and justice for persons receiving services for mental illness, developmental disabilities, chemical dependency and emotional disturbance in children.

As a teen, how do I advocate for myself?

Information taken from

Speaking up and advocating for yourself can help you feel strong and take charge of your life. However, it is not always easy to have the confidence to go for it.

Making your own choices, big or small, can make a big difference in how you feel about yourself. This section is designed to help you to find your voice and make informed choices-even when you may not be at your best.

What is Self-Advocacy?

Self-Advocacy means speaking up for yourself, making your own decisions, standing up for your rights and demanding respect from others. Self-advocacy is all about looking out for yourself while still respecting and valuing the role others may play in your life. You can become a self-advocate at home, in your community, in school and in your workplace. You can also be an advocate for yourself when it comes to determining the mental health services and supports that are best for you.

What Are My Rights?

As a young adult you have many rights when it comes to the mental health services and supports that are best for you. These include the right to:

  • Ask for what you want.
  • Say yes or no.
  • Change your mind.
  • Make mistakes.
  • Follow your own values, standards and spiritual beliefs.
  • Express your feelings.
  • Determine what is important to you.
  • Make your own decisions based on what you want or need.
  • Be treated with dignity, compassion and respect at all times.
  • Receive all information about recommend treatments, including risks and benefits.
  • Decide on the services and supports that are right for you and lead you on the path to recovery.
  • Be listened to.
  • Be aware of all your treatment options and their levels of effectiveness.
  • Receive hope and encouragement.
  • Have personal space and time to make decisions.
  • Communicate your concerns, symptoms or thoughts in whatever way works best for you.
  • Involve your family and friends in your treatment.
  • Be yourself.
  • Be safe.
  • Ask for a second opinion without being penalized.
  • Change health care providers.
  • Improve yourself.
  • Express concerns and ask questions.
  • Have a primary decision-making role in your treatment.
  • Be treated as a whole person - not just a mental health condition.
  • Be taught how to help yourself.
  • Receive as much information as possible about the risks and benefits of all treatment options, including anticipated outcomes.
  • Weigh the pros and cons of recommended treatments.
  • Track and evaluate your progress, symptoms and outcomes.

How Can I Advocate for Myself When I Am Experiencing a Psychiatric Crisis?

It can be particularly challenging to express your wishes when you are experiencing a psychiatric crisis. You will likely not feel like yourself or in control of your thoughts and actions - however, even in the worst of times there are ways to let others know exactly what you want and need.

When you are feeling healthy and good about yourself, you may want to develop a crisis plan (PDF) to share with your support network, including, trusted family, friends and your providers. This plan should include your health information and treatment preferences for when you may experience a psychiatric crisis.



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