The following testimony was gathered in response to Advocacy Awareness Week, 22nd to 26th October 2018. It comes from someone who received our Community Advocacy Service in West Sussex:
I had been trying to access a service which I desperately needed but found I was unable to navigate their system on my own. I gave the advocacy service a call to see if they could support me with this issue. At the time I was tearful and in a state of desperation, but the lady who answered the phone calmed me down and found out exactly what I needed. Very soon after I was contacted directly by an advocate. The conversation we had was like a breath of fresh air. There was no “we’ll get back to you”, I was given clear answers and was reassured that an advocate would support me and who that would be.
Due to the independence and confidentiality of advocacy I felt like I was able to ask questions freely without fear of jeopardising the success of my issue. I was able to explain the problems I had previously encountered trying to access the service I needed. As I cannot leave my flat, my advocate agreed to meet me at home. Before this meeting I hadn’t let anyone new into my home for 2 years so this was a big deal for me, but I was reassured when I met my advocate for the first time. I found them to be kind, sympathetic and always patient. They stuck with me throughout and gave me encouragement.
Unfortunately I have a few mental health issues and Fibromyalgia which comes with really bad brain fog, causing me to crash and burn. This can make communicating very difficult. However, with the help of my advocate we were able to break things down point by point and I was able to take as long as I needed which gave me confidence to speak out. My advocate never tried to give me advice, only information. As a result I never felt lead by my advocate which has helped me take back some control in my life as they backed me with the decisions I made. In time my confidence grew and I felt like I could tackle some tasks on my own, even when my advocate was not available.
When I had knockbacks along the way I felt absolutely alone, misheard and at one point even suicidal. But with the help and positivity from my advocate I was always able to carry on. I knew I could rely on my advocate to believe and listen to me, even when no one else was, and this helped get me through.
My journey with Mind in Brighton and Hove was amazing because not only did support me with my application, but were there again when I had to challenge the initial decision which did not go in my favour. They stuck with me until I had an outcome that I was satisfied with. I know I can return to the service again if I need to and my one bit of advice to everyone is do not give up!
I’d like my advocate to know that you have helped me more than you know. I felt so much more confident knowing that Mind in Brighton and Hove were behind me. My advocate just had a way about him that just put me at ease and made me feel so supported.