Author: Karen Copeland
This post was originally published on the Champions blog on October 30, 2014.
Champions is a word I use a lot these days. There is a purpose for this. I truly believe we all have the ability to be a champion for child, youth and family mental health. Sometimes it is as simple as a quiet word of support that makes the biggest difference for a child, youth or family. Being a champion doesn’t mean doing big, bold, amazing things; to me, a champion is someone who is caring, understanding and most importantly, aware.
Our family has been fortunate to have many champions in our lives. People of all walks of life who have believed in us, encouraged us, helped us up when we felt we could not continue on. There are many times that I turn to my champions, whether it is connecting via social media and celebrating the great work they are doing or picking up the phone and sharing my frustrations to the champion whom I know will not judge me or chastise me, instead, she will listen and provide me with gentle guidance.
There are other times when I am required to “leverage my champions”. I used to take people at their word when they said “parents are experts” and believed that the information I had to share would be valued. That has since changed – see my post “Pondering Expert“.
You see, I figured out that there are certain situations and times when I am not going to be heard. It does not matter how I present the information or how much evidence I have to support what I have to say (we have more than ample assessments to support my position). Having recognized this, I realized that I would need to go to my champions within the system, to share information on my behalf. Not speak for me. That is altogether different! Leveraging my champion means giving the opportunity to someone who can present the information in a way that is going to be heard.
When we leverage our champions, we free ourselves of some of the anxiety and frustration we feel when we speak and are not heard. We give ourselves the opportunity to be a part of the experience without the pressure of having to try to get our point across to someone who does not want to hear it. Most importantly, we experience the gift of trust and empathy. Because we know our champion believes in us, believes in who we are so much that he/she is willing to take on this responsibility.
Sometimes, the best kind of advocacy comes from within the circle of power, not outside of it (where parents often are). Thank you to all my champions. We would not be who we are without you in our lives.