What is a health advocate?
A health advocate is someone who has been appointed to help care for and manage the affairs of the sick individual. They do not need to have any medical qualification, just a commitment to help support the sick person.
Why health advocates are necessary for people with depression
Here’s some advice I always give to people who are struggling with major depression, which explains why they need to appoint someone to be a health advocate:
When you were a kid your mom likely stayed home from work to take care of you when you were sick. She made you chicken soup. She bathed you. She wrapped you up in a blanket. She kissed you. She was in charge of taking care of you, so you could be in charge of focusing on getting healthy.
When you’re depressed it’s the same thing. You need help and care from those around you. Though, you may be trying to do things yourself because when you don’t have physical symptoms you may think it’s up to you to “pull yourself together”.
Depression is neurological disorder. You need to heal even if you can’t see that you need to heal. Give yourself time.
Once you’ve been labeled with a mental illness you can seen as “unreliable” and “unstable” in the eyes of the world. Mood irregularity is a symptom and so, sometimes people think you can’t be trusted, and you may not be seeing things for what they really are. Whether it’s true or not, this is what many people think and believe. That includes professionals.
If you appoint yourself or ask for permission to be a health advocate for your loved one, here are some of the crucial roles you’ll need to play:
Character alibi: Vouch for their character and help explain their actions. This will help professionals understand what is “normal” behavior for them.
Safety monitor: You’ll need to keep an eye on them. Call and check on them frequently. Make sure they are safe. Ensure their environment is safe.
Someone to talk to who will listen and be supportive: Sometimes they need to vent or share their pain with someone. It helps you get it out. And being listened to and understood can make them feel less alone.
A second in command: You can take over and perform specific tasks when they aren’t able to. You can do things like: Pick their kids up and drive them to school, deliver a meal, or, take your dogs for walk.
Finance manager: When you’re sick unfortunately the bills you have to pay don’t go away. You can help them reduce their costs, communicate with credit collectors and banks, or, pay bills and make trips to the back. You might also help financially (but only if you’d like to and are able to, and don’t expect anything in return).
Spokesperson: You can talk for the when they can’t.