By Naomi Winifreth, Judith Edwards, Jamie Matson, Kate
Mind in Tower Hamlets Advocacy Project
St Clements Hospital
2a Bow Road
London E3 4LL
£8.50 for service user groups; £20 for general
This excellent video contains two 11-minute films. The first is
primarily for professionals, while the second is a general
introduction that would be of interest to most involved in the
mental health field.
In the first film the role of independent advocacy is explained,
emphasising the importance to users of having an individual outside
the system who enables them to be heard. Service users share their
experiences of intimidation in formal meetings, and value the
presence of an advocate in redressing the power imbalance.
Advocates inform users of their rights, explain treatment options
and offer support.
The film addresses the ambivalence of some medical professionals
towards independent advocates, based on concerns about having their
practice and decision-making challenged. Enlightened professionals,
however, recognise the social control aspects of psychiatry, and
appreciate the importance of working in partnership with advocates
to improve the service delivered to the user.
The second film highlights the importance of bilingual advocacy
for ethnic minority user groups. The advocate bridges the gap
between service providers and users, ensuring that linguistic and
cultural needs are addressed. Effective advocacy validates the
user’s viewpoint, and either speaks for them or encourages
self-representation resulting in greater autonomy. User advocates
have a particular empathy to bring to the role, but must ensure
that they communicate the views of the user, not their own
Clarity about maintaining the boundaries between user, advocate
and professional staff is an essential skill for independent
Ukan (UK Advocacy Network) is a key organisation promoting best
practice in independent advocacy, and is featured on the video.
This is a challenging, well balanced film on advocacy which offers
a helpful tool to both service users and professionals alike.
Katherine Wiltshire is an independent mental health