Sharing Is Advocacy

There’s something special about waking up and viewing the new day as an opportunity. It doesn’t always happen – most days pass by without much thought or recognition – but some days stand out and demand attention. Today is such a day.

A photo by Azrul Aziz.

Today, I feel more alive, more aware. It wasn’t always like this. Several years ago, my world was less bright, more lacking. Despite myself, I survived the darkest predations of that time. Today is a day that makes me thankful for that survival.

With awareness comes understanding. I’ve grown to appreciate that the sharing I’ve engaged in through my blogs and Twitter is an act of advocacy. Each time I tweet about how silence nearly led to my destruction, I’m advocating against it. Each time I write about the darkest of moments, I’m showing that there is a path out of it. Each time I give voice, I’m celebrating the gift of opportunity I received.

Elements of this understanding are new. I resist the label “advocate”. I feet that advocacy includes an element of altruism. My writing, my sharing, lacks this. But some friends have shown me that sharing is altruistic and I’ve certainly shared.

They point to my writing, my blogs, my guest writing for Healthy Minds Canada, my sharing throughout a variety of mental health web sites. They point to my activities in support of World Suicide Prevention Day and Men’s Mental Health Awareness Day. They point to my public speaking. They point to the replies I’ve received over the years, the thanks of fellow sufferers who have found hope in my writing. They remind me that I didn’t have to share, that I didn’t have to blog or tweet or speak. Yet, they say, you’ve done all of this. They point to all of this and say that these are acts of advocacy.

I viewed these activities, not as advocacy, but as simply doing the right thing. I haven’t begun to heal on my own. There are many who helped, many tools I was taught. It’s only right that I should share what I’ve learned so someone else can benefit. What works for me may work for someone else and if I can show this, well, I must.

Moreover, I knew that sharing was the antithesis of silence. If silence nearly killed me – and for far too many it does kill – then sharing was called for. To me this meant that my sharing was, in some way, self serving, an act of self-preservation.

But the reality is that sharing is both. It’s an act of self-preservation and an act of advocacy. I’m a man who speaks out about his struggle with mental illness because it helps his mental health. I’m a man who speaks out about his struggle with mental illness because it may help others. I do these things because they must be done.


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