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15 Ways to be Your Own Advocate
Going to the doctor's office doesn't always go well, doctors are humans just like the rest of us and as a result they make mistakes. On top of that they might have unchecked biases that impact the care that we receive. If you find that you're not getting the care you need it might be time to advocate for yourself. That being said it can be hard to advocate for yourself, so I've gathered some tips to help you out.
- Learn about your rights
Did you know you have rights as a patient?! Learn more about it.
- Plan before you go
Before you go to the doctor, figure out what you need and want out of the appointment, write it down and bring it with you. When you do this think about:
- Your goals for the appointment
- The symptoms you're experiencing
- Any concerns you have
- Any questions you have
- Do your research
If you want a specific type of treatment or believe you have a certain diagnosis do your research and talk about your findings with the doctor.
- Keep records
Keeping track of your symptoms, moods, etc. is helpful for your doctor. The more information they have the easier it is to treat you. One way to do this is to download our new (free) mood. app. It tracks your mood, sleep patterns and has a notes section. You can download a report to share with your doctor.
- Gather your support network
You don't have to do this alone! Ask someone you trust to support you throughout the process. You can also invite them to appointments if you don't want to go alone. If you don't feel comfortable asking a family member or friend for support you can connect with an agency like CMHA. Agencies like CMHA might be able to give you a case manager and work with you throughout the process.
- Be an early bird
Give yourself time to adjust, relax and breathe before your appointment. Giving yourself time will help you focus when you're talking to the doctor.
- Trust Yourself
You're the expert on your life, symptoms and body. You know what will and won't work for you.
- Believe that you deserve it
Sometimes we feel like we don't deserve to feel well, get access to treatment, attend therapy, etc. If you feel this way try to psych yourself up before your appointment. Remember- You deserve to feel better, you matter!
- Keep your cool
Sometimes you might feel misunderstood and that can be frustrating. It's ok to take a break if you feel really frustrated, see if you can schedule a time to come back when you're feeling better.
- Ask questions
If something doesn't make sense, don't be afraid to ask questions. It's well within your rights as a patient!
- Take notes
Appointments are short and often action packed, it can be easy to miss important points. To avoid this, take notes, bring a friend who can take notes, or ask your doctor if you can record the appointment.
- Take a time out
Don't feel pressured to make a decision right away. Get information from the doctor, then you can always go home and think about it for a few days!
- Before you leave
Summarize what you talked about. Confirm what the doctor will do and what you will do between appointments.
- Be patient
Sometimes it can take a few appointments, tests, etc. before you get a diagnosis/treatment plan. Try to remember this when you're feeling frustrated.
- Be kind to yourself
No matter how much you prepare, you might not feel heard. Celebrate the fact that you tried your best! Doctors can be intimidating and it can be hard to stick to your plan. Take care of yourself, take a break and try again! See if your doctor can refer you to a specialist, you can get a second opinion from another doctor.
Kathryn is a former mindyourmind staff and continues to work in the youth & community development sectors. In her spare time, she is a proud plant parent, home chef and avid volunteer.
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