November 25, 2023
November 25, 2023
My advocacy journey started early. At the ripe old age of 19, I began volunteering at a suicide and crisis hotline. After that, I worked in a substance abuse halfway house, a psychiatric hospital (where I ran a transition group for patients preparing to leave), and in a one-on-one companion role with a young man with schizophrenia.
And then I fell in love at the still wet-behind-the-ears age of 22. I was utterly struck by the thunderbolt. That was it. Game over. I was a goner.
The amazing thing about my soon-to-be bride was her steadfast support of the advocacy gene running wild within my soul. As a general rule, advocates only have a little money, are constantly in giving mode (which can be taxing), and (at least in my circumstance) are on the road a lot.
At the age of 22, neither of us knew that my future would be one of constant travel to help others. Yes, the role of an advocate is noble, but it is also unabashedly selfish. You are constantly putting others first, as an advocate should. But often, you do that at the expense of those who love you most.
And yet, it is those who love you most that keep you going. I am so clear that the past 44 years of advocacy on behalf of others would not have been nearly as effective without the support of my bride. Her consistent and genuine support is why I have been able to do what I have done all these years.
At our wedding, among the redwoods, early in the morning (hey, it was California in the 70’s!), I sang “Your Song” by Elton John and Bernie Taupin. I picked that song because it spoke deeply to me – I knew instinctively that I wouldn’t be a big money guy but would love her with all my heart, hoping that my endearing, worn-out, saggy blue jeans would make up for the fact that I barely had two nickels to rub together. And guess what? She didn’t flinch one bit. Not then, not now. Her support has been unconditional through all of my advocacy endeavors.
Much love, babe!
My wish for all advocates is that you find a supportive force to be with you the way I did. It makes the advocacy journey so much easier!
Scroll down to play a cover of Your Song by Boyce Avenue (slightly more polished than my version 44 years ago).
Hello, I’m Scott Bryant-Comstock, CEO and founder of the Children’s Mental Health Network. For the past 40 years, my journey as a mental health advocate has traveled from volunteering at a suicide and crisis center, professional roles as a therapist in an outpatient clinic, in-home family therapist, state mental health official, Board Chair for a county mental health program, and national reviewer of children’s mental health systems reform efforts. As the founder of the Children’s Mental Health Network, I lead the Network’s efforts to grow a national online forum to exchange ideas on how to improve children’s mental health research, policy, and practice.