Here at NAMI Seattle, we often talk about action items community members can participate in. One common request is for individuals to contact their legislators on matters relating to mental health. For example, after NAMI’s 2016 survey “The Doctor is Out” found that healthcare parity laws - the policies that require insurance to provide for mental healthcare in the same way they provide specialty and primary care – we asked members to contact their state insurance regulator to demand that their state be held accountable to parity laws.

Contacting state representatives, insurance regulators, senators, or other political and judicial affiliates is a helpful way to advocate for mental health rights. Unfortunately, our political system can be difficult to navigate and it can often become overwhelming trying to find the right contact information or even know exactly who you should be contacting.

The good news is that all of this information is available to the public and we have compiled some of the ways you can find out who to contact and how to do it! For a more in depth compilation of resources, please see our full Advocacy Toolkit!

If you live in Washington, a great way to find out your district and representatives is this website: http://leg.wa.gov/

You can search by your district, and if you’re not sure which district you live in, don’t worry! Just put in your address and the site will find it for you. If you don’t live in Washington State, or you want to contact other federal, state, or local officials, you can visit: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials

The Washington state insurance commissioner is Mike Kreidler, whose contact information can be found here: https://www.usa.gov/elected-officialsIf you are looking for other state insurance regulators you can visit http://www.naic.org/state_web_map.htm

Most activist groups recommend a phone-call as the best way of getting your voice heard. Email, letters, and even faxes are also options. Most of the links in this article will point you to all of these methods of contact. You could also choose to attend a town hall meeting or go to NAMI’s Lobby Day at the state capitol on February 19th this year. One of our interns in recent years said of their first time attending a Lobby Day: “I approached the day with both awe and anxiety, but by the end I felt I had participated in something both deeply meaningful and of incredible importance.”

Increasingly, politicians are developing a social media presence. While not the most effective way to get their attention, you could also try direct-messaging, tweeting, or otherwise tagging them. During this highly-charged political environment, legislators have seen a huge increase in attempts at contact by their constituents, and by some unusual methods. According to this article in The New Yorker, at least one person attempted to get Congress’s attention through a pizza delivery!

These are turbulent times and in such times, knowing who is responsible for representing your interests and acting on your behalf is imperative. Whether you’re responding to a call for action from NAMI or reaching out on other matters close to you, knowing how to find the right people is the first step in making your voice heard.

If you’re not a NAMI member already, sign up now to make sure that you get action alerts for both local and national action!