This article is the last in a series of articles covering the overall topic of advocacy. If you are like me, there was no “handbook” at my fingertips when I faced difficult situations that would erupt in the course of caring for my disabled spouse. Sharing my own research and experience, many times learned through trial and error, I hope to offer my insight on what works best so you can become an effective advocate too.
As I shared in my first article covering the basics of advocacy
, and in my second article on raising your self esteem
, you first have to believe in yourself before you can convince others to believe in you! My third article explained ways you can create your own positive changes
. My fourth article brought us to the topic of learning how to get what you want or need
, and my fifth article covered ways you can target your efforts and provided an example for practice
. My last article covered different ways you can ask for what you want by creating an effective paper trail
Knowing your rights.
Everyone is entitled to the same civil rights and equal treatment, including people with disabilities or psychiatric symptoms. I will share a list of some of the different rights you have as a person for your health care, and for when you are in a treatment facility.
You have the right to:
1. Be treated with dignity, respect, and compassion at all times.
2. Be safe.
3. Follow your own standards, value or spiritual beliefs.
4. Have the friends and interests of your own choice.
5. Have your own personal space and time.
6. Ask for what you want, say yes or no, or change your mind and make mistakes.
7. Express your feelings, both positive and negative, in a responsible manner.
Depending on federal or state law, your health care rights may include:
1. Knowing the side effects of medications or treatment.
2. Having a person of your choice with you when seeing your doctor.
3. Change doctors, though your choice may be limited by your health care plan.
4. Decide which treatments or medications are acceptable to you, and have the right to refuse medications or treatments that are not acceptable to you.
5. Ask for a second opinion without being penalized.
In addition to the rights listed above, you may also have the following rights when in the hospital or seeking residential treatment:
1. Be represented by a lawyer when your rights may be affected (attorney fees may apply).
2. Keep personal possessions, including toiletry items.
3. Have privacy to perform personal hygiene tasks.
4. Communicate in person, by sending and receiving mail, and by reasonable access to telephones, with the people of your choice.
5. Receive the same civil rights, respect, dignity, and compassion as a person who is not in such a facility.
6. Receive a written treatment plan from your physician that is developed with your input and updated as your condition or treatment changes.
The only time your rights may not be honored is if you are making unsafe requests or indicating in some other way that you may hurt yourself or someone else.
If you know or feel that your rights are being violated, the first thing you should do is to ask the person, people, organization, agency, or institution that is violating your rights to “stop doing that.” If they don't stop, reach out for help. Depending upon the kind of violation, you could contact a counselor, mental health agency, law enforcement officials, or your state office of protection and advocacy. If you are unsure whether your rights have been violated, contact the agency of protection and advocacy in your state, or seek appropriate legal counsel.
I hope that this series has given you tools and insight to discover the best ways to become an advocate for yourself or others. Learning to speak up for yourself and your needs while asserting your rights is not always an easy task. By taking these steps and practicing them you will learn that becoming an effective advocate for yourself and others is a very rewarding experience.