Natalie – The College of New Jersey

Public Policy Associate

My experience as a Public Policy Associate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has been a life changing and memorable opportunity that I am grateful for. This was my first time in D.C. and out of New Jersey for an extended period of time. I learned and laughed an incredible amount while working alongside John, Nicole, and three additional associates, Blythe, Shelby, and Rachel. As a Public Health and Communication Studies double major at The College of New Jersey, this internship combined my interests in education, suicide prevention, and stigma reduction for mental health disorders. I found myself excited, challenged and passionate about the tasks I was assigned.

I can honestly say this internship was nothing like I thought it would be. I anticipated working on general office work for an organization that was for a cause I am passionate about, but to my surprise I got to do something different and challenging each day. For example, the other associates and I were sent to a Senate HELP Committee hearing on the Affordable Care Act during our first week and have attended countless others since then. The hearings were always exciting and informative, and encouraged me to think about policy from different angles and how the conversations affect AFSP’s mission.

One of my responsibilities this semester was to follow six Congressional Committees, which allowed me to hear many experts speak and gave me insight into how legislation is passed and drawn-up. I was able to network a great deal on the Hill when attending hearings or advocating for specific bills with members of Congress. In particular, I put a large focus on H.R. 2345 and S. 1015, the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act of 2017. I saw its movement through committee and I even spoke with members of Congress whose support we specifically needed to pass the bill.

While interning with AFSP, I was able to explore my interests and realize that I wanted to continue to advocate for and work in the mental health policy field for a little while, before choosing a graduate program. I anticipate moving back to Washington, D.C. following graduation to continue learning about the legislative process and pursuing my passions. This internship is impactful, because of its immersive nature, and it gave me the ability to explore my passions and take charge of how I wanted to learn this semester. I am incredibly thankful for my internship with AFSP. I am a more passionate advocate because of them.