Ariel – Cornell University

Public Policy Associate

For me, suicide is an issue close to home–it claimed my father in 2004. When I realized this position would allow me to support a cause I am passionate about, and to gain the experience in health policy I have long desired, I accepted wholeheartedly. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is imbued with energy and optimism, and working at the Public Policy Office allowed me to witness the tireless dedication of AFSP and other advocacy groups we collaborated with to make mental health policy a priority.

On topics of mental health care and suicide prevention, I tracked and analyzed legislation at both the state and federal level, and monitored relevant media coverage daily. When bill movements occurred, I assisted in mobilizing AFSP’s grassroots network of Field Advocates to promote legislation on suicide prevention training for educators, lethal means restriction, and improved mental health care access for veterans.  I attended Congressional hearings on veterans’ health care, NIH funding, pharmaceutical regulation, and addiction; I also observed nonprofit briefings on psychiatric drug development, as well as delivery system and payment model reform.  Afterwards, I authored updates on the proceedings for our website. I assessed recent research on policy and mental health, and updated AFSP’s educational materials accordingly.  I met with Congressional staff to advance AFSP’s policy priorities and identified future advocacy prospects with my colleagues.

My assignments required me to integrate my knowledge of the US healthcare system, mental illness, and pharmaceutical R&D and regulations from my college coursework with my research and writing skills. The two major projects I worked on-evaluating efficacy of suicide prevention training for health professionals, and assessing the utility of various substance/alcohol abuse policies for preventing suicide-may help guide future policy and spending decisions. This chance to leverage my abilities and to make a discernible positive impact was deeply rewarding. I made new contacts, located valuable resources to draw upon as I pursue an MD and a Master’s in Public Health, and was inspired by AFSP’s Chief Medical Officer, Dr. Christine Moutier, to be involved in efforts to curb physician suicides while I attend medical school.