Why I stitched a message to my MP
This week, we launched our brand new Mind craftivist kit ‘A positive note’. It’s a crafty kit with a unique fabric envelope to stitch, and a notecard to write a message to your MP, encouraging them to raise the bar for everyone with mental health problems.
I was really excited to team up with the Craftivist Collective to create this kit, because it’s a new form of more gentle campaigning that I think is really going to grab the attention of MPs. I know a lot of our campaigners and supporters are passionate about mental health and have really important personal stories that need to be heard. This craftivist kit is something a bit different and a great way for people to share their stories with MPs who have the power to improve mental health support.
If you’ve not heard of craftivism yet, it’s activism using craft. A form of gentle activism that encourages quiet, reflective crafting to produce something beautiful and useful to give to your MP to encourage them to use their power for good. ‘A positive note’ is so different to the hundreds of petition cards and emails they receive every day.
"It’s a great way to attract your MP’s attention and get your message noticed."
Even so, I was a bit nervous about crafting my positive note. I don’t sew very often and I didn’t think I’d be very good at it. And even though I work in the Campaigns team at Mind, the thought of meeting my MP to hand in my note (or even just posting it) was pretty daunting!
But crafting my note was actually very easy. The kit has everything you need to get started and the instructions are very clear. It explains where to stitch and how to do it. Once I’d sat down and laid all the bits of my kit out, I started to write my MP’s name on the envelope – Siobhain McDonagh MP. That’s when I realised she has a really, really long name. But I was surprised that it didn’t take very long to finish the envelope and I was really pleased with what I’d created.
The kit contains ‘crafterthoughts’, which are suggested ideas and questions for you to think about while you’re stitching. I used these to think about my own experiences of mental health, how I’d like to see services improve, and what I would write in my note to my MP. I tried to make my note as personalised as possible to explain why the issue of mental health is so important to me.
I decided to tweet Siobhain with a photo of my note to show her what I’d made and draw her attention to mental health. I didn’t expect a reply. I’d tweeted her before about campaigns I cared about and asked her to attend debates in Parliament, but I’d never got a response. But she replied! With a really personal and sincere response. I realised then just how powerful a truly personalised message to your MP can be in getting their attention.
"I am meeting my MP this afternoon. It was very easy to make an appointment to see her."
I just looked up her contact number online, called her office and booked in a time to meet her at her surgery. I know Siobhain really cares about her constituency and does a lot of work locally. So I have gathered some local information to take along to the meeting and I’ll talk to her about mental health services in our area.
I have a diagnosis of bipolar 2 disorder and I am particularly passionate about having safe spaces where people can go when they are in mental health crisis. It is scary and dangerous to have nowhere welcoming to go when you don’t feel safe being alone. Two new crisis cafés have recently opened up in my area, which offer an alternative to A&E for people who are in crisis or don’t want to be alone. I am delighted by this, as there has been nowhere for me to go in the past when I’ve really needed it.
So I’ll be making sure Siobhain knows about these cafés and understands why they’re so vital for people with mental health problems. Then if they’re threatened with closure in the future, she will hopefully help fight to keep them open.
I’m quite nervous about meeting Siobhain but I’m sure my note will be a great ice breaker. I am hoping it will make me stand out among the many other people Siobhain will see this afternoon. So that when I email or tweet her in the future, she will look at my note (which I’m sure she’ll have pinned to her office noticeboard) and will take notice of what I have to say.
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