Advocating together: Building on hope and collective action

Join Advocacy Day: March 24, 2023

We will be hosting our second annual Advocacy Day event on March 24. This event seeks to bring social workers together to strengthen our advocacy skills, and connect with others seeking to create change in our communities, including allied health partners, community advocates and first voice champions.

The mini-conference will reflect the chorus of voices throughout Mi’kma’ki, with dozens of speakers from across our region sharing their words and thoughts. The many perspectives shared at this conference are intended to ground us, collectively, in a new way of thinking about health care and advocacy. 

In the process, we hope to build momentum for hope and collective action, strengthen the grassroots network of advocacy in Mi’kma’ki, and amplify the messages that are needed for social justice and wellness for everyone.

Join our campaign: March 24-31, 2023

Advocacy Day will launch our More Than a Diagnosis campaign.

The process of medical diagnosis speaks to the visible symptoms that affect an individual’s ability to participate in their daily lives and within broader society. Unfortunately, Nova Scotia’s current approach to mental health, and indeed, health in general, does not yet fully take into account all of the other psychosocial, spiritual and structural issues that profoundly affect us.

Social workers and allied advocates across the province will be invited to share our advocacy tools and messages with their neighbours and friends. In a world where knowledge, wisdom and lived experience are often seen as separate, and where these silos are reflected in our disciplinary knowledge, training, service provision, public health policy development and advocacy efforts, we are proud and grateful to partner with multiple amazing community partners to launch this collaborative campaign.

This campaign also reflects the NSCSW’s celebration of National Social Work Month in March, which spotlights the essential role of social workers to work with people and systems to create justice and healing. We celebrate social work by advocating for the values and principles that are at the heart of our profession. We affirm that every day our members support people in navigating complex systems that are still in the process of being developed and improved.

Our profession requires us to recognize the importance of advocacy as an expression of moral distress with the status quo. We believe that advocacy can have healing properties when it is done in a way that builds connections, creates shared goals, and focuses upon the unique intersectional contributions of every person, profession and community organization.

This is our vision

Ultimately, we are collaboratively striving to co-create a system of care that ensures every Nova Scotian has access to what they need to thrive.

We affirm that we will do everything we can to work for an approach to wellness that integrates psychosocial, spiritual and structural lenses. We affirm that this commitment is part of a larger imperative that we must all honour: the decolonization of our health care system and the healing of each of us, individually and collectively. And we affirm that coming together with a shared vision and strengthened connections is part of a healthier Mi’kma’ki.

As social workers, we commit to doing everything we can to building the connections that can ensure a solid foundation for the necessary labour of reconciliation that can lead to holistic wellness and justice.

This is the plan

NSCSW members have been offered free training in motivational interviewing and listening strategies in February and March. During the last week of March, NSCSW volunteers and our partner organizations will venture forth to build connections in their communities, putting advocacy tools directly in the hands of Nova Scotians. MLAs across the province will soon hear from hundreds, perhaps thousands of people demanding increased mental health funding and a shift from the current bio-medical model of care.

Each year’s Advocacy Day builds on the work of prior years. We intend to spend the next year increasing our momentum, so that we may double our effectiveness for next year’s Advocacy Day event and related activities. We’ll continue collaborating to decolonize health by advocating for better integration of the psychosocial determinants of health into government policy.

What we advocate for

We are continuing to strive to transform Nova Scotia’s systems in ways that reflect the recommendations of our 2021 mental health report (Repositioning Social Work Practice in Mental Health in Nova Scotia), including strategic investment in social determinants of health & well-being, family-centred & client- centred practice in service delivery, and increased accessibility & appropriateness of services for diverse communities.

Our focus is on the need for universally funded mental health services that are accessible, and are focused on prevention rather than crisis. They need to be community-based, trauma-informed and integrate the psychosocial determinants of health.

Most urgently, the Nova Scotia government is urged to adopt the minimum funding guidance of the World Health Organization: at least 10% of the health budget must be dedicated to mental health services. While this is NOT adequate, it is far more than is currently allocated.

How we advocate together

Our More Than a Diagnosis campaign is built around a growing network of groups that intend to unite their voices in advocacy for a shared vision of what mental health and well being in Nova Scotia can become.

Our calls to action align with the Act NOW for Mental Health campaign organized by the Canadian Mental Health Association. We are grateful for our growing collaborative partnership with their Nova Scotia division (CMHA-NS); their organization represents the first voice concerns of individuals and families affected by mental health and addiction challenges. By partnering with CMHA-NS we seek to model the kind of allyship that represents the ethics and values of the social work profession, as well as to amplify our voice and advocacy impact.

The advocacy tools our campaign will share were co-created with the Legal Information Society of Nova Scotia (LISNS). As more and more individuals feel disconnected from the political system, and do not feel comfortable engaging in the democratic process that can help transform challenges into opportunities, we are proud to partner with LISNS in developing a toolkit that can be used to advocate for the voices of every person living in Mi’kma’ki who who yearns for justice and equity. This toolkit will make advocacy action more accessible, and change more attainable, putting the building blocks of democracy in the hands of the people who most need it. We have power when we work together.

If you represent a community organization that would like to join us in these efforts, please contact to get started.