For our first teen council meeting of the year, Johnson County Mental Health director Tim DeWeese joined us for a discussion about the importance of Advocacy Day and what we can expect. Advocacy Day is when we go to Topeka to meet with legislators to discuss the work of Zero Reasons Why and why we are passionate about mental health resources and suicide prevention.

 In his talk, Tim shared several pieces of advice:

  • Tim encouraged us to personalize our involvement with the campaign as much as possible when speaking with legislators. He emphasized the importance of connecting your personal experience to the cause, showing how the campaign is very much connected to real-life stories.
  • Tim also encouraged us to reflect on what aspects of mental health we are each personally passionate about to help us develop a platform to share from with legislators. Sharing from our own opinions and perspectives rather than trying to simply communicate facts can be a more powerful and effective way of persuading your audience.
  • Tim shared with us Johnson County Mental Health Center’s Priorities and Recommendations document for 2024. He encouraged us to consider prioritizing two items from the document in our meetings with legislators: for more funding for the 988 suicide & crisis line in and increased access to critical housing resources, but ultimately encouraged us to think about what issues we are most passionate about and make those issues part of our platform
  • For our meetings with legislators, Tim encouraged us to “know our audience”. Going into a meeting with prior knowledge about a legislator’s voting history can help prepare you for the conversation, especially if there is a chance the legislator is less-than-supportive initiatives we are passionate about. If this turns out to be the case in a meeting, Tim encouraged us to simply share why a particular initiative is meaningful to us.

At the end of our meeting, we reemphasized that expressing why particular issues related to mental health matter to us personally to us is the most effective way to advocate for the campaign and the causes we care about.