Going the Extra Mile: Rethink Mental Illness's Commitment to Their Supporters

24/06/2016 14:34 | Updated 24 June 2016

We're a very generous nation and most of us give money and support to causes we really believe in. But so much mail and email these days is unsolicited and unwanted. I know I'm not alone in finding it really annoying to be bombarded with requests for money or action by organisations which are not of my choosing. What a waste of paper and effort. Even more seriously, we know that some people can find these approaches intrusive or even threatening. So this is why the law on how you opt to give support has recently changed. And I'm proud to say that Rethink Mental Illness is currently going beyond what the law requires.

Having been part of Rethink Mental Illness for some time now, I know how important supporters are to them; whether you're a donor, campaigner, fundraiser or a volunteer running a support group - you are a valued member of the Rethink community. Therefore, it didn't come as any surprise to hear that Rethink Mental Illness are going that extra mile for their supporters by pledging only to contact individuals who have specifically given permission.

I have been a member of Rethink Mental Illness for 12 years. During that time I have been involved in numerous activities, including campaigning, helping to shape the charity's policies, and as of last year, becoming the Chair of the Board of Trustees. Rethink Mental Illness places those with direct experience of mental health problems at the heart of what they do, their voices resound in every aspect of their work, and I have been eager to add my own experiences as a carer for someone with schizophrenia where I can to support its work in improving the lives of those affected by mental illness.

People choose to support Rethink Mental Illness for different reasons, and there are a myriad of ways that people can get involved, meaning that people can, and do choose the best fit for them in how they support the charity's work. Rethink's new approach from this summer, is to ensure that you can also choose the most convenient way they communicate with you. Supporters can opt-in to different forms of communication, depending on what suits them - whether that's a call, email, SMS or in writing. This means that as a charity, Rethink Mental Illness will only communicate with an individual if they have given permission to do so, and in a way that suits them.

This is extremely important, not just as a matter of good practice, but set in the wider context in which Rethink Mental Illness works. While the actions and voices of supporters are an intrinsic and driving force in all the charity's endeavours, we know that some supporters may be considered vulnerable, or being caring for someone who is vulnerable. In fact, I think it's wise to consider everyone as potentially vulnerable as the term includes the young, the old, those affected by physical or mental illness or disability and those suffering deprivation. That is why it's great to see Rethink going above and beyond to ensure that individuals receive a level and form of communication that is appropriate to them. For example, for some people with a mental illness, answering the phone to a stranger could increase their anxiety levels, therefore by being able to opt-out of receiving phone calls, and instead receive only emails, can help an individual remain connected to the charity, but not cause any undue stress.

Rethink Mental Illness' decision to tailor communications speaks to its commitment to and respect for its supporters, whether known to be vulnerable or not. As a long-standing supporter of the charity, my commitment to Rethink Mental Illness has been buoyed by their recognition of my value to them, as demonstrated through the launch of its 'Supporter Promise', which its their commitment to go that extra mile to ensure myself or anyone else is treated well, no matter how they come into contact with the charity.

The new 'Supporter Promise' outlines eleven promises that range from safeguarding your data, and never selling it on, not targeting those who may be vulnerable, to quickly updating your communication preferences. These promises show a level of sensitivity to - and recognition of the unique individuals that support Rethink Mental Illness. Their voices and actions direct and drive its work, and through this Supporter Promise and move to go fully 'opt-in' with communications, Rethink Mental Illness is demonstrating that it is willing to do everything they can to make your involvement with the charity a tailored and rewarding experience.

For more information about Rethink Mental Illness's Supporter Promise visit their website.

For information and advice about any issue related to mental illness, please call the Rethink Mental Illness advice service on 0300 5000 927 (lines open Monday to Friday 09:30am-4:00pm and calls charged at local rate).