Since September is suicide awareness month, learning about self-advocacy is the basis of all healing from complex trauma and defeating suicidal ideation in oneself and dealing with it in others. When you stand up for yourself and meet your needs, it is easier to meet life on life’s terms and respond better in times of crisis.
This article shall explore with you who and what a self-advocate is, plus the advantages self-advocacy brings to the lives of those who practice it who live under the shadow of a loved one or friend who is suicidal.
What is a Self-Advocate?
Understanding what self-advocacy is and why it is vital gives one the power to succeed in their life because we have the power to change and owning our lives.
- Speaking up for yourself
- Making your own decisions about your life
- Finding support for yourself
- Knowing and owning your rights and responsibilities and standing up for them
- Reaching out to others for support and friendship
- Learning about self-determination
- Not following the crowd but fighting for your independence
- Owning one’s actions and words
- Deciding what is suitable for you and going to get it
Self-advocacy empowers us and helps us find a voice when people are not paying attention to our needs and rights. Self-advocacy is a choice even when in the pain of the moment you cannot see it.
Reasons it is so Important to Self-Advocate
It is vital to learn self-advocacy skills because they help you decide what you want and what you expect from yourself and others. With self-advocacy, you have more control over your life and what happens to you.
There are three parts to becoming an effective self-advocate, knowing what you want, knowing what you need, and getting your needs met.
Knowing what you want versus what you need. Wants and needs are two completely different things. You may want a new car, but you only need it when it is vital to getting to work or taking the kids to school. You may want new clothes, but they are a need when your underwear has holes in them.
So, how can you tell the difference between a want and a need?
Wants are a list of things we believe will make us happier in our lives. Wants can be many things, including wanting to be in a relationship or land the perfect job. A want is something that is not necessary for survival. A few examples of wants might be taking a vacation to an exotic island, having the newest version of a smartphone, or getting tickets to a concert. None of these wants is vital to your existence and should be relegated to the want pile. The list of wants in the want pile is enormous and varies from person to person.
Needs are things that one must have to survive or make us happier and more content in our lives. There are physical and emotional needs. Physical needs might include safe shelter, access to food and clean water, and clean air to breathe.
Emotional needs may include love, caring, freedom o choose and pursue one’s dreams, the ability to succeed, and a sense of community connection and belonging.
Disadvantages and Advantages of Being a Self-Advocate
As with any other important part of life, there are advantages and disadvantages to being a self-advocate.
There are distinct disadvantages to self-advocacy that may include the following:
Lack of perspective to understand the issue at hand. One disadvantage of self-advocacy is that your ability to help yourself is limited by your ability to be objective and clear about the nature of your issues. You may lack objectivity and perspective to make accurate assessments or judgments concerning your own issues. We often deceive ourselves by distorting or denying the truth of what is wrong with our lives because we have developed a catalog of defense mechanisms. We seek to avoid uncomfortable truths and externalize them choosing to blame circumstances or others for our problems. Denial about your problems and using a defense mechanism to avoid facing them makes you unlikely to understand your problems and fix them.
Lack of knowledge. Another disadvantage to self-advocacy is that you may lack the knowledge needed to fix your issues. Even when you are clear on the objective and transparent on the nature of your issues, you might still lack the knowledge of how to fix them. People are not born knowing how to gain and use knowledge to help themselves; it must be taught either in childhood by parents or by adults to themselves. It takes access to resources and a willingness to study those resources before determining what is best for helping yourself. Unfortunately, not everyone is willing to do the necessary footwork.
There are many advantages to self-advocacy, including more self-respect for yourself and others. Self-advocacy enables others to see that I am serious about my life and that I am fully capable of meeting my needs. Below are listed four benefits to becoming one’s own self-advocate.
Being able to make your own decisions. For most adults, the ability to make one’s own decisions is a given. No one else can decide for us how to live our lives or what to do with them. Adults are autonomous human beings who hold the reigns to their future. Self-advocacy claims this ability and makes one capable of obtaining whatever one needs to heal and live well.
Gaining self-confidence. Being self-confident means being secure in yourself and your abilities. To be self-confident is to have confidence in yourself and not doubt yourself. One can be self-confident without being arrogant or cocky. Gaining self-confidence means you are assured that you hold the reigns to your life and are steering it the way you wish it to go.
Learning to express your needs. Expressing one’s needs is an advantage to self-advocacy. Expressing yourself is where you tell others or you seek out what you need. This advantage allows you to get precisely what you want instead of depending on others to guess. Making others guess what you might need isn’t efficient and will nearly always fail. A few appropriate ways to express a need might be to tell someone you need more space, telling someone when they have crossed a boundary, or asking someone to go on your healing journey with you.
Self-Advocacy and Dealing with a Suicidal Family Member or Friend
Suicidal thinking or behaviors in a family member or friend is one of the most challenging realities an individual can face, as it is difficult to watch someone you love being in so much pain. It is vital to remember that your friend or family member is not the only person in pain, as you are also a victim of the chaos.
Indeed, family members often feel overwhelmed in this situation and are afraid to do or say anything for fear it will be the wrong thing. Likewise, people who love someone who is suicidal may feel they have no right to speak up for themselves about their pain because it feels selfish or like they are taking something away from their suicidal loved one.
Holding oneself together under the tremendous stress and fear of these circumstances is crucial to maintaining one’s mental health and allowing room for the loved one or friend to find their own way. This does not mean you are abandoning them; instead, it means you are taking steps to take good care of yourself during these trying times, and this is helping your loved one.
Below are five things you can do to advocate for yourself under these circumstances or at any time.
Believe in yourself. Remember, you are a unique and valuable person, and you are worth advocating for yourself. It may take some work to raise your self-esteem to believe in yourself but becoming your own self-advocate is the first step in that process.
Decide what it is that you need. Clarify to yourself what you need to take care of yourself during your loved one’s suicidal ideation or actions. Set goals for yourself and carry on with life as normally as possible. Be clear to others what your needs are and expect them to respect them.
Gather Support. It is always helpful to have support when facing life, and this is especially true of someone who loves someone who is contemplating dying by suicide. Gather around you supportive friends, family members, therapists, anyone who will hold your hand when you are down and laugh with you when you are feeling well.
Set appropriate boundaries. It is critical to your sanity that you set up appropriate and strong personal boundaries with those around you. Setting boundaries is critical because we are bound to want to rescue someone else or respond to them wanting to be rescued. Make sure that both you and others understand that your priority is to care for you because you are no good to anyone, even yourself if your needs are being walked on. These boundaries aren’t only for others to observe and respect; they are also for you to do the same.
Know the facts. Reading books and articles such as this one or others on CPTSD Foundation are wonderful ways to get and know the facts about self-advocacy when one loves someone who is suicidal.
It is crucial to understand where to turn if you think your loved one or friend is suicidal.
The first line of defense is your family doctor. Tell them that you are concerned about your loved one or yourself and be honest about suicidal ideations. Your physician will get you the help you need right away, sometimes resorting to entering you into the hospital for observation. While going to the hospital is not ideal, doing so will keep you or your loved one alive while the doctors attempt medications to decrease the anxiety or depression causing the problem.
Your second line of defense is knowing organizations that can help.
The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (Call or Chat Online). This resource is available 24/7 at the following number:
Contact them whenever you feel worried about someone who may be contemplating dying by suicide.
Crisis Text Line. In our age, more and more people opt to text instead of talking on the phone. The Crisis Text Line is available 24/7, and you can reach them by texting “GO” to 741741.
Ending Our Time Together
Self-advocacy is a learned concept with its advantages and disadvantages but is vital to achieving a peaceful and prosperous life. This is especially true when dealing with someone who is suicidal.
By learning the skills necessary to self-advocate for yourself, you are helping your friend or loved one experiencing suicidal ideation by giving them one less thing to worry about.
No one else can control your life except for you, and while this may at first seem painful, that no one else will come to your rescue, the power that comes with self-advocacy is enormously rewarding.
“I learned a long time ago the wisest thing I can do is be on my own side, be an advocate for myself and others like me.” Maya Angelou
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My name is Shirley Davis and I am a freelance writer with over 40-years- experience writing short stories and poetry. It has only been the last two years that I discovered the world of writing articles for other people’s websites and have found it to be highly beneficial to my pocketbook. Living as I do among the corn and bean fields of Illinois (USA), working from home using the Internet has become the best way to make a living. My interests are wide and varied. I love any kind of science and read several research papers per week to satisfy my curiosity. I have earned an Associate Degree in Psychology and enjoy writing books on the subjects that most interest me. By the way, I am a published author of three books and am currently working on a fourth.