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8 Ways You Can Support Chronic Pain Warriors During Pain Awareness Month

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It’s September, which means Pain Awareness Month is in full swing. But while you may want to get involved and help educate people about the issues facing the community, it can be surprisingly difficult to find meaningful ways to help — especially ones that aren’t too expensive, time-consuming or require you to be an expert in policy and advocacy strategy. Aside from telling friends or writing a Facebook status, what else can you do to support Pain Awareness Month?

Every person with chronic pain deserves to have their voice heard, so we found eight ways you can get raise awareness this month (and hey — these are also great options for the chronic pain allies in your life). Most of these ideas don’t require you to open your wallet or even leave your house. And our suggestions don’t “expire” in October — you can use these strategies to advocate for the chronic pain community all year round.

Here are a few ideas:

1. Change your profile photo. The U.S. Pain Foundation is offering a free graphic program that places a Pain Awareness Month template over your photo, so you can make sure all your social media followers are informed. Update your profile photo here.

2. Follow chronic pain advocacy organizations on social media. These organizations will help keep you informed about the latest developments in pain research, politics and advocacy opportunities. In addition to the advocacy groups and nonprofit organizations dedicated to specific diagnoses, here are some general chronic pain organizations to check out:

American Chronic Pain Association

U.S. Pain Foundation

Chronic Pain Research Alliance

International Pain Foundation

3. Contact your elected officials to share your opinion about proposed legislation. You can write a letter, email or call, though government staffers say calling is generally most effective. In a now-viral series of tweets, a former Congressional staff member said that while it’s impossible for staffers to respond personally to all emails and letters, a high volume of calls about a particular issue really gets staffers’ and lawmakers’ attention. You don’t have to be an expert on the issue; just share your personal story and reasoning behind your position. Find out how to contact your elected officials here.

4. Go to your elected officials’ town hall meetings. All members of Congress hold town hall meetings periodically, though few of their constituents actually attend. But this is the best (and for most people, only) way to tell your representative in person what you think, ask them questions, and help them put a face to issues they may not have a personal connection to. Also, filling a town hall with a large group of advocates can have a big impact. To find a local town hall, sign up for your local senators’ and representatives’ email lists and check their websites. You can also check the Town Hall Project for lists of upcoming events in your area.

5. Write an op-ed for your local newspaper or news website. The general public is often unaware of the issues chronic pain patients face. The pain patient’s perspective may not be fully represented in news articles, especially when it comes to hot-button issues like the opioid crisis. Sharing your story can help people learn the human side of these issues. The U.S. Pain Foundation offers an op-ed sample, list of basic components of an op-ed, and guide for submitting an effective op-ed here. (You can also submit to The Mighty here!)

6. Sign a petition. Anyone who’s ever signed a petition has likely thought, “Is this actually going to do anything?” The answer: yes and no. A list of signatures without any additional political strategy likely won’t force any outcomes. However, experts say signing a petition can help educate people about the issue, raise awareness, and get the attention of media and lawmakers. Here are a few examples of petitions the chronic pain community has started:

CDC Guidelines Are Killing Chronic Pain Patients

Make Chronic Pain Patients Exempt From CDC Guidelines

Remove the Classification 1 From Cannabis/Marijuana

7. Shop for your cause. Wear a T-shirt, bracelet or pin that raises awareness of chronic pain and the condition you live with. Etsy features designers like Spoonspirations that make chronic illness-themed items. Many nonprofits also sell apparel, like the National Fibromyalgia Association, Reflex Sympathetic Dystrophy Syndrome Association, Global Genes, and National Fibromyalgia and Chronic Pain Association. The profits from these items go back to the cause, so it’s a win-win.

8. Share the stories of other chronic pain warriors. In order to help people understand the chronic pain patient’s perspective, we need to amplify the voices of the warriors who speak up. Here are a few powerful Mighty stories that illuminate the issues at stake for people with chronic pain:

To the Person Who Thinks Chronic Pain ‘Can’t Be That Bad’

How the ‘War on Opioids’ Is Hurting Patients With Chronic Pain

The Side Effects of Chronic Pain No One Talks About

6 Challenges Healthy People May Not Realize Are Caused by Chronic Pain

And follow these bloggers who regularly cover the challenges of chronic pain:

Jessica Martin

Noelle Chelli Lopez

Essence Cheatom

Jason Bell

How do you plan to support chronic pain warriors this month? Let us know in the comments below.

We want to hear your story. Become a Mighty contributor here.

Thinkstock photo by Rawpixel

Originally published: September 6, 2017
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