Advocacy is the act or process of supporting a cause. People who get involved in advocacy have usually had a preventable negative experience. They become inspired to make sure no one else experiences the same thing they went through. Perhaps you had a negative experience trying to get help for your mental health. Now you might feel inspired to transform how other young people access mental health services. It sounds like you’re interested in advocacy!
In society, youth and young people can feel that they have no voice. They are not able to vote, parents or guardians can make decisions on their behalf, and they can be discounted as not having the life experience required to be a contributor.
This can sometimes lead to decision-makers and leaders making decisions that have a big impact on youth without really knowing all the facts. Services and programs made for youth don’t always provide what youth really need or how and when they need it.
You’ve probably noticed that your friends or classmates may turn to other friends for support before talking to an adult. It’s important to make sure that young people know how to support and stand up for their friends.
There are also a lot of changes happening to young people. Growing up from a “kid” to an “adult” is no small feat! Puberty causes you to change emotionally, physically, and mentally. The environment around you is changing too; you’re transitioning from junior high to high school to whatever lies beyond! With all these changes, youth deserve access to strong resources. Most importantly, youth need programs and services that are created not just for youth, but by youth.
There is an opportunity for young people to work together to amplify their voices and have others listen to what they have to say. Indeed, it is super important so that we can see change and progress across our communities, country and even the world! That’s why we need youth advocacy.
There are different types of advocacy, but many young people are involved in community advocacy.
Community advocacy involves challenging stereotypes and assumptions about groups who might be labeled as “vulnerable”. Negative attitudes and myths impact what services are available to those groups.
Let’s say you want to change the stereotypes around mental health. You might join a student club filled with people with the same mission. Together you can host events, do social media campaigns, or create other initiatives to inform people about the truth around mental health and mental illness. You could create a petition or start a campaign to make mental health education mandatory at your school. Maybe you decide to organize a fundraiser to support a non-profit organization like Kickstand! These are all examples of community advocacy.
Community advocacy is really important to change how people think and talk about certain issues. Your community can include your school, the neighbourhood you live in, or even a group of people who share similar identities to you. Advocacy can look like providing accurate information on the issues that matter to your community. It can look like brainstorming ways to get their voices heard.
The best way to get started is to focus on the word “community”. Where can you find it? You can look within your school to see if there’s a club or student group that already tackles the issues you care about. Do you have a community league or neighborhood association? They often offer programs or have people who work as a community coordinator. You can always reach out to them and ask if they would be interested in supporting your idea.
If you want to find people who care about the same issue, use the power of social media. Create a post on your feed or on your stories. Get people to comment or DM you if they are interested in meeting up and possibly creating an advocacy group together!
Once you find a community to advocate with and for, get the creative juices flowing and start advocating for a better future!
Importance of youth engagement | Walking the talk (yetoolkit.ca)
What is Advocacy? | Philanthropy Journal | NC State University (ncsu.edu)
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All information on this site is intended to provide assistance and guidance but cannot replace the care of a medical professional.