Emily – Brooklyn Law School

Public Policy Associate

In the midst of my first year of law school, I became interested in the law as it regards mental health and addiction. While searching for summer internships, I was honestly shocked at how few opportunities I found to advocate for those who struggle. After a few troubling questions in interviews for litigation positions (mainly for civil commitment hearings) I started to wonder if my personality could handle direct services. Meanwhile I was gearing up for the Out of the Darkness Overnight walk in NYC, signing up as an AFSP field advocate, and talking about suicide prevention to anyone who would listen. While perusing the AFSP website I came to discover that they offer internships in their DC policy office and I suddenly knew exactly where I wanted to spend my summer.

This has been one of the quickest, longest, most unbelievable summers of my life. AFSP is such an amazing organization that I’ve been proud to support for years, and I just feel so blessed to have been involved with the policy office in Washington DC. John, Trevor, Nicole, and Liz have been beyond helpful and encouraging; truly interested in enriching our summer experiences and doing anything they could for us to prepare for the next steps in each of our careers.

We hit the ground running in early June to get ready for the annual Advocacy Forum that took place my second week on the job. The forum overall was an incredible experience. The fortuitous timing of the event with the mark up of H.R. 2646, the “Helping Families in Mental Health Crisis Act of 2016,” made the experience that much more worthwhile.  I personally had a really positive experience going around Capitol Hill with the advocates from my home state of New York and talking about my experience as a loss survivor with the congresspeople and staff. Although our trip to the Capitol to watch the House of Representatives vote on H.R. 2646 a few weeks later was difficult to time perfectly, I ultimately did get to see the vote from my computer at home, with tears in my eyes. I felt so proud to have potentially played a part in making that happen and going forward I’m definitely going to be tracking its progress through the Senate.

If I was in any doubt about my future career in mental health advocacy that is no longer the case. Overall I learned so much from my summer at the AFSP policy office about the way government, policy, and grassroots advocacy work independently and together; knowledge that will be invaluable as I continue on this path. Above everything, it is truly ineffable to have finally landed on a career path knowing I’m going to love what I’m doing and helping people along the way. I wouldn’t trade this summer’s experiences or my time with John, Trevor, Nicole, Liz, and my fellow interns for anything.