Zoe – University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
Public Policy Associate
This Summer, 2019, I interned with AFSP’s public policy office in DC. It was my first time living outside of North Carolina, and I can genuinely say that it has been the best experience of my life. Not only was I able to be in one of the most beautiful cities in the U.S., but the work I was able to do with AFSP and the people I had the opportunity to work with will have a lasting impact on me. Many people ask me, “Isn’t it hard working on such a sad topic all day?” One may think so, but the AFSP public policy office has the most positive, uplifting environment. Everyone jokes and laughs, and thoroughly enjoys the meaningful work they do. I am so thankful to Taylor, Chelsey, Natalie, Connor, Nicole, John, and all of my fellow interns for making this whole experience so enjoyable.
For my first few weeks, I prepared for and attended AFSP’s Annual Advocacy Forum, where hundreds of advocates come to DC to attend information sessions about suicide prevention policy and spend a day on Capitol Hill advocating for suicide prevention and mental health reform. The forum this year was topped off with a rally to prevent suicide in front of the Capitol reflecting pool, an event I will never forget. Continuing into the summer, I attended many congressional committee hearings and numerous outside events focused on policy. I also tracked bills pertaining to suicide prevention policy, and was even able begin working on research into firearm legislation surrounding suicide prevention, a topic I am very passionate about. Having studied public policy at the University of North Carolina for the past two years, it has been an amazing opportunity to get real, hands-on experience in the field.
Overall, this internship was challenging, rewarding, and truly life changing. After working with AFSP, I am certain what I want in my future after college: move back to DC and continue working on public policy surrounding mental health and suicide prevention. The positive work environment and encouraging attitudes from everyone in the office provided me with a space where I felt comfortable enough to be confident in everything that I did, and I know that will carry on into my future. Aside from the academic and professional side of things, I have also grown tremendously on a personal level. Working for a cause that is so near to my heart and affects so many people was the most rewarding and humbling experience I have ever had. I will always be grateful for AFSP and all of the opportunities I was given during my time there.