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The Royal College of Psychiatrists Improving the lives of people with mental illness

Practical support for MPs and their staff

Monday, 5 November 2012


Over the past few years, an increasing number of MPs have approached us to ask for advice in supporting constituents with mental health problems. This is not surprising – one in four people will experience a mental health problem in any one year, and mental health problems can affect anyone, from any background. But in the current difficult economic climate, MPs have told us that they are experiencing a rise in case work in which mental health – such as anxiety over the future – plays a role.


We know MPs are comfortable in assisting constituents with more ‘traditional’ concerns, such as housing or employment. And even if they are not sure in a certain case, most know where they can go to find more information. But there is a feeling that when it comes to mental health, it’s more difficult to know how to help.


Sometimes it’s simply a matter of not knowing what sources of help are available locally. But we hear of times when MPs or staffers have had to help constituents in states of extreme distress or anxiety, and have lacked confidence in their approach. At these times it would be beneficial to have some practical advice and guidance from organisations with specialist knowledge of mental health.


Over the last year we have worked with Rethink Mental Illness and Mind, in liaison with MPs and staff from all political parties, to find out what information would be helpful for them to have. The booklet we have produced provides an overview of mental health, and sets out the local bodies and organisations that can help MPs support constituents. It also addresses how MPs and staffers can look after themselves in situations that are more challenging, and includes practical examples of the language and working practices that could be employed.


A hard copy will be posted to all constituency offices this week. We believe that by developing understanding and confidence in supporting people with mental health problems will lead to a more meaningful interaction between constituents, MPs and their staff.


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Re: Practical support for MPs
This sounds an excellent scheme. Congratulations to all involved.
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