Change that leads to better lives

The value of the experience in being person-led

As a person-led organisation, VITAL has been supporting communities in Bradford for over 30 years, bringing advocacy to the Bradford region since it was set up in 1989 by patients from Lynfield Mount Hospital, who felt they did not have a voice. These are their thoughts on why being Person-Led is so important in Advocacy:

Advocacy Awareness Week quotes

As an independent organisation, nearly all of our staff, volunteers and Trustees have had their own experience of mental health either personally or as a carer, giving us great insight into the person-led approach. We recognise that people are so much more than their mental health diagnosis. That everybody has a story and is an individual. Therefore, we work holistically looking at the person as a whole. Recognising that what works for one person, may not work for another.

Being an organisation led by “experts by experience” helps us offer non-judgemental support, a higher level of empathy and, in our experience, a greater understanding of people than many other mental health services in our region.

Why is this important?

From feedback we receive, one of the key things we hear is the ‘profound sense of empowerment’ service users feel knowing their advocate has also used mental health services. People with mental ill health really don’t want an advocate to be in a smart suit treating them the same way as every other mental health professional.

They are relieved to know their advocate has also “been there”. Allowing them to develop a deeper trust, helping them to open up more, telling them things they may not have felt comfortable telling other “professionals”.

These are some of the things that people tell us:

‘When people understand you, you feel like you are being heard’. Saeed

‘Because VITAL’s advocates have had their own experience of mental health, I felt I could trust my advocate. He had empathy which made it easier to open up’. Mo

‘The advocates see the bigger picture’. Sara

‘What helped was being with like-minded individuals who can understand. As a user run organisation, VITAL staff understand, have empathy’. Terry

‘I felt I needed to give something back to the organisation, so I began volunteering with them, meaning I was giving other people the lifesaving support I was given. I am now not only giving community advocacy but also supporting volunteers to deliver this valuable service. I cannot stress how much this kind of advocacy is needed. How this support is saving lives and keeping people in the community with this VITAL support’. Rebecca

We know that people using our advocacy services continue to feel reassured and secure in the knowledge there is no ‘them and us’ when seeing our advocates. We all have mental health, and sometimes, we all have a struggle to be heard.

Over 30 years since we started our organisation, it’s important to remember why we are still vital - because there are people that will still go unheard. There are so many unheard voices in the health and social care systems who can benefit from this person led approach.

To find out more about our story please go to

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Gail Petty

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