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Volunteer Advocates come together for Tennessee's State Capitol Day

February 13, 2024 – 2 min read

Volunteer Advocates meet with Tennessee legislators
Volunteer Advocate, Caroline Kohl, at Tennessee's State Capitol Day
Written by Volunteer Advocate, Caroline Kohl

“Advocacy is empathy, compassion and community at work.”
- Janna Cachola

This fantastic quotation came to mind when thinking about the 2024 State Capitol Day. This year, we had our most diverse group of volunteers yet. We had 27 advocates traveling to our State Capitol from Antioch, Bartlett, Baxter, Brentwood, Columbia, Cookeville, Daisy, Franklin, Gallatin, Knoxville, Lebanon, Madison, McMinnville, Memphis, Murfreesboro, Nashville, Old Hickory, Sewanee, and White House, Tennessee. That adds up to 19 different communities in Tennessee coming together for one mission: to fight for suicide prevention in our state. This is community at work.

At the beginning of the morning, we had the opportunity to go around the room and share why we were advocating for suicide prevention and hear from our fellow advocates about why they had traveled to Nashville. Going around the room, it was clear that although we were from different backgrounds and had distinct stories about our why, our common thread was that we had been affected by suicide. Suicidal ideation and other related mental health issues do not discriminate based on race, gender, or socioeconomic background. It has affected all 19 of our communities, and we all came together to conceive change. The critical aspect of advocacy is that it is a step beyond just imagining a future without suicide; it is taking active steps to create that future.

Volunteer Advocates take a selfie together before meeting with legislators
Volunteer Advocates get to know each other before meeting with legislators

This year we asked for legislator’s support on two upcoming bills, S.B. 2259 [Campbell]/ H.B. 2197 [Mitchell]: Tennessee Voluntary Do Not Sell Firearms Act and S.B. 1697 [Walley]/ H.B. 1823 [Farmer]: Firearm Hold Agreements. These bills put into place a system that creates a pathway to separate those in crisis from firearms. In Tennessee, 67% of suicides are by firearms. We had great support from legislators on both sides of the aisle on these bills because of the opportunity to create private, voluntary, and revokable safety measures for gunowners and citizens of Tennessee. These bills if codified into law will help save lives, as the majority of firearm deaths in Tennessee are by suicide (52%).

I attended State Capitol Day last year for the first time, and I remember how nervous I was. Luckily, I was paired with some fantastic, confident advocates who encouraged me to find my voice. This year, I came in with a different sense of confidence and the knowledge that I did belong in the Capitol. These are our representatives, and by educating them on bills that can save lives, we are creating positive change for our state. I encourage everyone to start taking active steps for change. It is our empathy and compassion that create this future. Check out our Public Policy Action Center to learn more about small steps you can take to begin advocating in our community.