Become An Advocate
Communicating with Legislators
Communicating with your legislators is the best way to get your voice heard. You can communicate with your legislator in a letter, by making a phone call, or with a personal visit.
General Tips for Communicating with Your Legislators
Get Involved in Advocacy
Becoming an active participant in politics is another great way to get your voice heard. Put your thinking cap on and figure out creative ways to spread the word. Writing letters, making call and visiting legislators are all great, but think outside the box and take your commitment to the next level.
Here are a few ideas:
These are just a few ideas, see how many other great ideas you can come up with. Most importantly, don’t get discouraged, it may take many attempts and different approaches to get your message out.Back to top
Making Your Message Stand Out
To make your message stand out from the millions that arrive in Congress each year, do your homework.
Know your audience. Before communicating with or visiting your elected officials and their staff, you should know as much as possible about who you are visiting. Checking the legislator’s congressional and campaign websites will provide a broad array of important information about the official, their committee/subcommittee assignments, and issue interests. Many officials send out emails to their constituents who wish to stay informed of their activities. Knowing whether an official is a long-time supporter of mental health issues, a strong fiscal and social conservative, or interested in senior citizen and veterans issues, for example, will help you determine how best to present the issues you will discuss.
Know your issues. Know the arguments for, and against, the issues you want to discuss. Read appropriate background information on any issue you will be talking about and be able to answer questions or know how to get the answers to any questions that are raised.
Prepare. This toolkit contains guidelines for conducting a meeting with an elected official or their staff, communicating effectively on an issue, and other topics. Keep this Peer Advocacy Training Toolkit for future reference and as a resource to sharpen your skills as your relationship and level of involvement grows.
Most importantly, don’t underestimate the impact that you can have if you approach communication and developing meaningful relationships with your elected officials and their staff in a thoughtful and ongoing manner!Back to top
Meeting with Your Members of Congress
There is no substitute for the opportunity to communicate face-to-face with your legislators. They get to hear your story, unfiltered and direct from you, and gain a sense of your dedication to issues important to you and others within your community. When you’re ready to set up a meeting with your member of Congress, keep the following suggestions in mind.
Planning for you Meeting:
Tips for your presentation:
After your meeting:
Building Meaningful Relationships
The best time to get to know your legislators is back home, when they are less distracted by the business of Congress. You should make every effort to visit your senator or representative to get to know them better and educate them about mental health issues when they are home during a congressional recess. If your elected representatives know you as a voter, constituent, friend, and supporter, they are likely to be more responsive to you than to those who have not developed that relationship and who write or call only when they are in need.
Increasing your degree of influence with your legislators is easier than you think! Here are ten ways to get to know your members of Congress and their staff better:
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