I really want to get into mental health advocacy. I struggled with mental health issues for years but I am now stable and in a great place mentally. I work in a smallish town on a psych floor. I want to get involved with the local NAMI and share my story but I am concerned about sharing my story and then seeing people as patients on my floor. There is just so much stigma around mental illness. There is so much wrong in the treatment of mental health and I really feel like I need to become an advocate but I'm concerned doing so will negatively impact my career. Does anybody have any experience with this?
You can and should be an advocate for mental health. I just don't recommend you share your own experiences with patients or God forbid, your employer. I have rarely seen any good come out of disclosing mental illness to one's managers or co-workers. I'm an advocate myself and I blog about my life with bipolar disorder, but I've been burned badly in the past by oversharing in the workplace and would never take that chance again. And you never want to share your story with your patients---after all, the nurse/patient relationship is supposed to be about the *patient*, never the nurse, and some will even use your words against you.
The best that you can hope for is that you never run into people from the community in your work at the psych unit. I lived in a small town where it was hard NOT to run into people in the mental health community; in fact, I was once hospitalized for suicidal ideation/intent, and who should have been my nurse but one who'd worked with me on the same med/surg floor a few years earlier. It is possible to be an advocate without necessarily disclosing your own history though, and perhaps that would be best in your situation. I wish you well in all your endeavors.