I met my MP to talk about the Mental Health Act
Every year over 50,000 people are detained under the Mental Health Act. Yet the Act has changed very little since it was introduced 35 years ago. Earlier this month, Rethink Mental Illness Campaigner Suzanne met her MP Justin Tomlinson to discuss why the Act must be improved to better protect people’s rights. Read on for Suzanne's story.
As the mother of someone who has been detained under the Mental Health Act, Rethink Mental Illness’ Act for Mental Health campaign is very close to my heart. When my loved one was detained, my eyes were opened to the shortcomings of the current law. It made me realise why it is so important for us to use our voices to change it, especially given the huge political opportunity that the current Independent Review of the Act brings.
When I received an email from the Rethink Mental Illness campaigns team, I was prompted to email my MP, Justin Tomlinson, to arrange a meeting. This was my chance to make a difference. I found his contact details on the Parliament website. I provided some information about what I wanted to discuss and explained the situation with my loved one. He responded swiftly and offered an appointment.
Even though this was my first time meeting Mr Tomlinson, I felt at ease thanks to the guidance and support I was given by the campaigns team. I prepared for the meeting by reading this guide which includes tips on how to have a successful meeting with your MP. I also spoke to a member of the campaigns team who provided me with information to help me establish the points I wanted to raise.
While it might feel daunting to meet with your MP, you can’t beat face-to-face conversations. It’s the most effective way of getting your MP to hear what you have to say and give their support. I even got a picture for social media!
The meeting itself was extremely positive and I was very happy with the outcome. I talked about why I was so passionate for the Act to be reformed, and the improvements that I wanted to see. I felt that Mr Tomlinson really heard my concerns, as he was very receptive and acknowledged all of my points.
I subsequently sent him an email to say thank you for meeting me and summarised the issues we discussed. I also included my suggestions for how the Act could better protect the rights of anyone detained under it, and their loved ones. My MP has now written to the Parliamentary Under Secretary of State at the Department of Health outlining my concerns.
My advice for people thinking of meeting their MP to discuss the Mental Health Act is:
- Make sure you have written down the points you wish to make and have some questions ready.
- Ask your MP to do something specific after the meeting that you can follow up on.
- Remember, you have a limited amount of time so keep your points relevant and succinct.
If you feel nervous, remember that MPs are just people like you and I, and they have a duty to listen and respond to the issues you raise with them. You can always take someone with you for support.
It’s hugely important to stand up for people severely affected by mental illness. If we don’t raise the issues that are important to us, they might be forgotten.
Do you want to set up a meeting with your MP to talk about the Mental Health Act? If so, contact the Rethink Mental Illness campaigns team by emailing email@example.com.
Read our guide on meeting with your MP.