Madeline – University of Virginia

Public Policy Associate

Being a Public Policy Associate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has been an incredibly valuable experience for me. Having just graduated from the University of Virginia with a Bachelor’s degree in Psychology and Public Health, I knew that I had an interest in mental health advocacy and disease prevention. Before beginning my Master’s program in Public Health Policy however, I needed to find an internship in an organization that could marry those interests with hands-on policy experience. Not only did AFSP allow me to explore each of my passions further, it presented me with a wealth of opportunities to gain real experience and understanding in a field I had never delved into before.

I expected my internship with AFSP to be typical of other internships I had previously: filing, answering phones, occasionally conducting research, but mainly performing tedious administrative tasks that others did not want to complete. However, I was profoundly mistaken; on my first day, I had barely logged into my computer before being asked to walk to Capitol Hill to attend a press conference headed by Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi. The work environment at AFSP was fast-paced and exciting, and I was able to interact directly with the legislative process in a way I can’t imagine I would have with any other organization. In my weeks working at AFSP, I attended multiple press conferences, Congressional hearings, and meetings with Congressional staff on the Hill about legislation pertaining to suicide prevention and mental health. I learned how to read and understand legislation, how to advocate for suicide prevention directly to policymakers, and how to analyze issues ranging from veteran’s mental health to the opioid crisis. Further, as someone who had not studied politics or the legislative process beyond high school, working as a Public Policy Associate gave me incredible firsthand knowledge of the policymaking process that I know I can use throughout my career.

Finally, the AFSP staff that I was able to work with for the last summer truly made the experience. Everyone was willing to answer any question that I had, was attentive to my every need as an intern, and ensured that my experience was beneficial to both me and the organization. The staff is inspiring and knowledgeable, and although this position was technically an internship, I always felt more like a colleague than an intern. I am incredibly grateful to have had the opportunity to work for AFSP, and going forward, I am excited to apply my newfound knowledge in my future schooling and beyond.