Alan smiling How to Become a Better Mental Health Advocate
How to Become a Better Mental Health Advocate

Have you ever wondered how you can become a better advocate for people in your life who have mental health challenges? We invite you to attend the monthly class, “How Can I Help?” facilitated by Easterseals UCP’s (ESUCP) Assertive Community Treatment team. This class educates participants who are looking to become better mental health advocates to better support individuals with mental health challenges.

Alan Bagshaw (pictured on the left), is the Assertive Community Treatment team (ACTT) lead with ESUCP. He says the main goal for the event is to create a sense of collaboration “without reinventing the wheel.”

“It’s a monthly meeting that happens the third Tuesday of every month,” Alan says. “The audience is the average person who knows nothing about mental health, what to do to help, or fears those who display symptoms.”

The class has a lot of information that is shared with those in attendance, but it also allows participants to have an open forum for questions and answers at the end. “It’s encouraged to bring scenarios to discuss with those attending so that we can discuss the resources available to help from the agencies and people in attendance – hence not reinventing the wheel,” Alan says.

“Last month we covered skills to engage with. This [upcoming] meeting will cover paperwork to support those in a crisis, how to plan for a crisis with loved ones or ones we support and an open forum to discuss open questions.”

Alan has been with Easterseals UCP since 2018. He has supported individuals in Surry and Yadkin counties through providing community-based mental health and substance use support since 2004. Easterseals UCP’s Assertive Community Treatment team serves around 50 clients. The team is actively recruiting licensed therapists so that they can provide support to more individuals.

“We will often see psychosis, lack of coping skills and difficulty with accessing resources due to transportation or not understanding,” Alan continues, “ACTT can see these individuals up to seven days a week to assist with the transition to living in the community.”

Many people have little to no experience interacting with individuals with mental health challenges. The classes offered by Easterseals UCP’s Assertive Community Treatment program are a way to break down barriers to understanding and communicating. Our neighbors in North Carolina and Virginia need assistance and support, but most people do not know what to do or how to help those with mental or behavioral health challenges.

“Many people just do not know how to intervene whether it just be from being afraid or not understanding,” Alan says. “Until someone walks that mile in another’s shoes, they can never fully understand. Often our clients will hear ‘just get over it’ because the person saying it feels that since they were able to overcome the roadblocks in their life, they feel that everyone should.”

Alan continues, “Often, it’s overlooked that individuals may be fighting their own symptoms (auditory/visual hallucinations, racing thoughts, confusion) and just waking up is a battle. I’ve heard ‘they’re just lazy’ and ‘they’re just cheating the system’ more times than I can count over the 20 years,” he explains. Our hope is that this class will help people gain understanding of individuals with mental health challenges and a confidence in how to be better mental health advocates.

Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) is a full spectrum, long-term, community-based treatment model for adults with severe and persistent mental health needs that have not been adequately treated by more traditional treatment services. This evidence-based treatment approach involves a high level of coordinated care and supports individuals as they manage their mental health challenges and live independently. If you are interested in joining the ACT team as a certified therapist, view our open positions here.

Easterseals UCP is a trusted, compassionate partner providing exceptional disability and behavioral health services to help our neighbors live their best lives. Purpose, dedication and empathy drive our service delivery. Its diverse and inclusive 2,300-member team provides more than 9 million hours of meaningful support to 22,000 kids, adults and families in 11,000 home and community locations. Learn more at