We have had many MPs write for our blog during Parliament Week. Hopefully they have highlighted some of the reasons why it is important for constituents to speak to them about mental health. They have to me and below are the reasons why I think it is important.
Your local MP is the person you (maybe not you personally) but your community, has elected to represent you/them in parliament. They must make adequate provision to listen to your views and so by speaking to them, you can help them to understand why they should represent your views. The more people that speak to MPs the more representative they can be in parliament. Any legislation that the government wants to pass or repeal, MPs must vote on – sometimes they have to follow the party line but other times they don’t. If your MP is to make the most informed decision when voting they need to know how the legislation is going to affect/is affecting their constituents. As Kate Green highlighted in her blog the welfare reforms have had major impacts on people with mental health problems and she knows this first hand as her constituents have been to speak to her. Paul Burstow also demonstrated how a lady came to see him and talk about mental health spurred him on to take action.It goes to show that just by one person raising the issue your MP can take it up.
Debates and parliamentary questions
Along with representing you as a constituent, your MP is there to hold the government to account. As a constituent you are able to ask your MP to ask a question in parliament. Many MPs ask questions on mental health and this is normally spurred on by actions taking place locally. The government may not be able to take action locally but by getting your MP to ask a question it raises the profile of your local problem and brings it to the attention of charities like us who we regularly look at what questions are being asked in parliament. Parliamentary questions can also help highlight where the government is or is not taking action and can highlight the lack of data being collected by central government. If we are to hold the government to account and advocate for changes to and improvements in policy we need to have data. MPs can also table debates in the house, Nicky Morgan along with Charles Walker held a debate on mental health last year and for the first time many MPs spoke openly about their own personal issues with mental health, or even put through private members bill or ten minute rule bill. These can help raise issues nationally and can all be as a result of constituents getting in touch with their MP.
Turning policy into reality
By talking to your MP you are:
1. Putting a personal story to the changes.
2. Showing the realities of the policies.
By talking to your MP about mental health and inspiring them to talking about it on a national stage and local stage you can help to further destigmatise mental health and show that anyone can be affected by it. Click here if you would like to find our who your MP.
MPs normally hold surgeries on a weekly basis: this is where you are able to meet your local MP to discuss matters. MPs normally advertise their surgeries in the local press and sometimes in the library. You can also book an appointment to see your MP at the houses of parliament.
Helena Brice is policy officer at Centre for Mental Health.
Follow Helena on twitter @hel_b