Public policy associates
Grace - Stockton University
This Spring semester, I had the opportunity to intern at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention as a member of the public policy team. I was a public policy associate, along with three other amazing interns. Shortly before coming to D.C., I realized I knew very little about public policy and the impact it has on every career. The AFSP Public Policy Office has federal and state sides; one team handles what’s occurring on Capitol Hill while one team handles what’s going on in all 50 states. The interns were assigned different Congressional committees so we can help keep track of hearings and what’s being moved through.
Interns were assigned other tasks like tracking bills in Congress Plus and Fiscal Note, attending webinars or conferences that surrounded mental health issues and suicide prevention, and begin an individual project. My project is in the beginning stages, but I have faith that AFSP will have someone work off from what I have and continue strongly! My favorite part of the internship was attending congressional hearings with my team. It was a knowledgeable experience that only so many get to experience in their lifetime. During my hearings, I recall being able to watch Roy Blunt and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez – it was truly an honor. Working at AFSP has opened my eyes to public policy in the mental health field and how much work needs to be conducted on it. Having this opportunity to gain working experience in the capitol of our country while learning how mental health is pushed through Congressionally was extremely eye opening and I am grateful every day for my time at AFSP.
This Spring semester has taught me so much, but I wouldn’t have been able to gain this knowledge without help from AFSP. Being apart of this organization has taught me how to contribute as valuable member to a team and I couldn’t have learned that without the help of Taylor, Connor, Natalie, Stephanie, John, and the rest of the beautiful staff at the public policy office. I also want to give a special thank you to my fellow AFSP interns, Samantha, Tara and Lucero. Without these ladies, my experience would’ve only been half as good. I recommend the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention to anyone interested in learning about policy related to their major or someone with a passion for suicide prevention!
Lucero - Saint Xavier University
During my spring semester junior year, I interned at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I came to AFSP as a Psychology major with a passion for being able to reduce the stigma around mental health- specially in minority communities but was never aware on how much public policy plays a role in the mental health environment. Now, after leaving AFSP, not only has my passion for lowering stigma continued to grow, but I now also have a better understanding on how policy works with regards to federal and state suicide prevention. I have learned how much policy plays a crucial role at the legislative level so that people are able to obtain care to better their mental health.
Through tracking bills on sites like Congress Plus, Congress.gov, and Fiscal Note I was able to learn about public policy in ways that I never would have been able to in a college classroom. I also had a lot of opportunities to leave the office by attend hearings at the Capitol Hill and attending events in where different organizations came together. When attending to hearing in the Hill I was able to learn more about suicide prevention issues and listen to members of government discuss legislation that will save lives. Additionally, I attended Maryland State Capitol day where I met with staffers of Maryland State representatives and advocates to talk about the importance of a suicide prevention bill.
My internship at AFSP gave me the opportunity to get started on working on my project related to workforce expansion. This offered me an opportunity on learning about possible ways to expand the field of mental health workers in all areas. One of the focus for improving the shortage of mental health provider is loan forgiveness.
I am very thankful for the opportunity to intern at AFSP. I had the chance to learn so much during this experience. Especially understand how import policy is regardless of the career path you choose. I want to thank John, Nicole, Chelsey, Connor, Natalie, Taylor, Stephanie and my fellow interns for allowing me to learn so much more than I ever expected. I would defiantly recommend taking a leap of faith and intern for AFSP.
For my senior year internship, I joined the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention as one of their Public Policy Associates. With my major being in Psychology, a subject of recurring importance over the years was suicide and the stigma surrounding it; as well as the severe gap regarding mental health parity. AFSP and their internship position stood out to me because I wanted to go beyond the generalized facts about suicide that are listed in a textbook. I wanted to better understand the story of where the statistics come from and what they imply on a state and federal level. Working with AFSP, I was given the opportunity to witness first-hand the complex and sometimes enervating processes surrounding mental health legislation.
I thought that working with both the federal team and state teams was fulfilling; each gave unique tasks. On a federal level, I was assigned to five different committees to monitor and record any events and/or happenings in the House of Representatives and the Senate regarding the activity of numerous bills. Being able to listen and take notes in person during hearings made markups and write ups enjoyable to complete. One bill in particular that AFSP worked closely with was 988. I hope to one day see the three-digit suicide hotline number fully implemented in every state around the country. The state level had its own bills to track. I was able to read and upload multiple issue briefs for various states. I was also taught how to use and edit data from databases such as Congress Plus; WISQUARS, and Fiscal Note. These were useful when working on my individual intern project regarding Firearms. One assignment I was responsible for was calculating and reporting on percentages of suicide by firearms in each state. I also compiled data on background checks and waiting periods. Finally, I was fortunate enough to also be a part of Maryland’s State Capitol Day. It was inspiring to hear from constituents, volunteers and grassroot members about how and why suicide has impacted their lives; fueling their desire for change from Congress.
On a personal note, I felt that AFSP and its Washington D.C. staff were exceptional to work with. Coming in, I knew very little about public policy. Regardless, everyone was ready and willing to answer any questions I had. Additionally, they went above and beyond to ensure that we as interns were getting the most out of our internship experience. AFSP has given me a newfound confidence regarding my knowledge of public policy and its impact on mental health. I am eager to use my experiences with AFSP in continuing to push for equitable mental health resources and services for our country.
Tara - College of the Holy Cross
My goals heading into my semester interning as a Public Policy Associate at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention included the following:
- To increase my involvement with the organization; having previously done multiple overnight walks, I wanted to expand from fundraising and raising awareness, to learning about how to create change through policy.
- To learn how my degree in psychology with a liberal arts education could be used in a political setting.
- To enjoy Washington, D.C. and all it has to offer.
This semester has been all of that and more. I cannot thank John, Nicole, Taylor, Chelsey, Connor, Natalie, and Stephanie enough for teaching and trusting me each day. Every member of the team is so passionate about what they do and is willing to share that with anyone. The semester also would not have been the same without the other interns, Sam, Grace, and Lucero; each day we worked collaboratively and supported one another. Even though my time physically in the office was cut short due to the Coronavirus pandemic, I was still able to complete my internship remotely. The team continued to provide me assignments weekly and made sure I felt like I was included.
While I was still in the city, I was able to attend various hearings and events that were interesting and relevant to AFSP. One of my favorite events on the Hill was “Conversion Therapy and the LGBT Community: A Conversation with Congress”, the event had multiple congress members speak and had a panel that included prominent figures like Dan Reynolds. Another event that I will always remember is the Maryland State Capitol Day that I was able to attend and participate in. It was an amazing opportunity to discuss the bills the chapter was encouraging representatives to support, while also sharing personal stories on why these bills resonate with me and the other chapter members.
This internship also taught me how to track legislation and input data on various platforms so that the team could easily access bills pertaining to certain areas of interest. Additionally, I was able to conduct an independent research project on first responder suicide prevention for the foundation’s public policy priorities on the website.
My time interning in the D.C. office has taught me how my interest and psychology-based knowledge in mental health and suicide prevention can be translated into public policy. It has increased my knowledge of how to create positive change on the Hill. I encourage anyone who is looking for an internship to learn and grow both professionally and personally to apply for this position. It will not disappoint!
Evan - College of the Holy Cross
During my fall semester junior year, I interned at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I came to AFSP as a Psychology major with a passion for reducing the stigma around mental health and suicide, but knew little about public policy. Now, after leaving AFSP, not only has my passion for lowering stigma continued to grow, but I now also have a strong grasp on how policy works with regards to federal and state suicide prevention. Having the opportunity to combine my passion for mental health with policy gave me a unique chance to understand how what happens at the legislative level trickles down to the clinical level to ensure for the best possible care.
Through tracking laws and bills on sites like Congress Plus, Congress.gov, Fiscal Note, and Lexis Nexis I was able to learn about public policy in ways that I never would have been able to in a college class room. I also had a lot of opportunities to leave the office and engage hands on in suicide prevention with government. One of these opportunities was getting to attend Congressional hearings and briefings about suicide prevention. Here, I was able to learn more about suicide prevention issues and listen to members of government discuss legislation that will save lives. Additionally, I attended the first ever D.C. State Capitol day where I met with staffers of D.C. state representatives to talk about the importance of a suicide prevention bill.
My internship at AFSP furthermore gave me the opportunity to conduct two independent research projects as part of AFSP’s website under public policy priorities. This offered me a valuable opportunity to learn about key issues regarding suicide prevention, and put together a project that will help to educate others.
I have been blessed and beyond thankful for the opportunity to intern at AFSP. This was a profound experience, which I have learned so much in. I want to thank John, Nicole, Taylor, Chelsey, Natalie, Connor, and my fellow intern Noah. I would never have been able to have this successful of an internship experience if it were not for them. They all made it a pleasure to come in to work every morning and provided a constant wealth of knowledge. I would highly recommend this internship to anyone eager to learn about, and engage in, suicide prevention advocacy.
Noah - University of Rochester
I entered my AFSP Policy Associate experience not knowing exactly what to expect. As a public health major with a focus in mental health, I was amazed by the work AFSP did on a national level but knew little about their policy priorities and the amount of influence they had within the suicide prevention legislative space. I soon found out that AFSP is a crucial player within the mental health policy space, and I was given a chance to be a part of this.
During my time at AFSP I was able to work on a variety of projects. I worked within legislative databases like Fiscal Note and Congressplus, tracked legislation and amendments, attended hearings and briefings regarding a variety of topics, and helped with several major assignments regarding federal and state priorities.
I was also assigned the responsibility of creating a public issue brief on the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline and its state crisis centers. With landmark legislation regarding a three-digit suicide hotline coming out, I got to witness first-hand the process of advocating for policy within a space I love. Creating this issue brief required me to work collaboratively, absorb and synthesize a wealth of information, and constantly keep myself up to date with the current status of the National Lifeline. This was one of the most intense and incredible opportunities I’ve been able to work on, and I learned so much about the topic at hand.
Not only was the work assigned to me during my internship substantive and educational, the AFSP D.C. team always made sure to take my fellow intern Evan and I to any meetings they could. I was able to be a part of the National Behavioral Health Council’s Hill Day and speak to legislators within the Capital, attend multiple Mental Health Liaison Group Meetings, and participate in the very first D.C. State Capital day, which was a hands-on and exciting experience.
I am beyond grateful for all that John, Taylor, Chelsey, Nicole, Connor, Natalie, and my fellow intern Evan have given me. I received an incredible education on a variety of policy positions, got to experience some amazing new things, and above all I was welcomed as a member of the AFSP D.C. team, and not as simply an intern. This was by far the most fun I’ve ever had, and I’d recommend it to anybody.
Gabrielle - University of New Hampshire
Interning at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention was one of the best choices that I have ever made. As I am approaching my senior year of college, interning in our nation’s capital was the best decision to help me further my understanding of how policy and the government works. I am a political science major at the University of New Hampshire and I had a great interest in the work that AFSP did and found the atmosphere of Capitol Hill particularly interesting.
Each day at the office was different, whether we were attending congressional hearings on Capitol Hill or spending time in the office tracking federal bills related to suicide prevention and mental health. The Public Policy Office provided a great work environment that fostered personal growth and challenged me to make a difference. Working with Taylor, Chelsey, Natalie, Connor, Nicole, John, and my fellow interns has been a wonderful learning experience. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s work is saving lives and making a difference.
After working as a Public Policy Associate for the past ten weeks, I have a further understanding of how policy works both at the state and federal level. I have a new profound love for policy and advocacy. AFSP has left a long-lasting impact on my life and others.
Gabrielle - University of Arkansas
When I came to Washington D.C., I didn’t know what to expect from my position as a Public Policy Associate. I knew that it would be bill tracking, hearings, and report-writing, but what I didn’t realize is that when you become part of AFSP, your perspective changes significantly about what mental health looks like in the U.S. I cannot adequately describe every element of my life that was affected during my time here, but I want to reflect on a few highlights.
My internship started with the Advocacy Forum, which takes place in the beginning of the summer and two weeks after my internship started. This served to be one of the most influential parts of my experience on The Hill. I got to advocate with fellow Arkansans to our elected officials about prioritizing suicide prevention and tell my story and why it was vital to have action behind advocacy. The forum is a unique to the summer internship experience. I got to see the efforts of all of the interns and staff from the year before me come to head, plus the added bonus of meeting 250 advocates who all had a similar goal in mind. I was lucky to see this part of AFSP.
After the forum was the Rally to Prevent Suicide, where I met Jamie Tworkowski, founder of To Write Love on Her Arms (TWLOHA), and one of my childhood heroes. This provided additional opportunities that many interns do not get to have, where I spoke with Katie Mumper, who serves as TWLOHA’s communications manager. This opportunity not only changed my professional goals, but impacted the way I value my story of personal struggles with mental health.
Above all, AFSP provided me with more than just an opportunity to gain work experience. AFSP provided me with a direction for moving forward and allowed me to meet people who will always hold a special place in my heart.
Lei - Ohio State University
This summer, I got the chance to intern with the Public Policy Office of American Foundation for Suicide Prevention as their Public Policy Associate. The experience was truly transformational!
My daily tasks at AFSP included tracking AFSP relevant legislation and attending AFSP relevant hearings. Through conducting these tasks, I learned to use tools like Congress Plus and Fiscal Note, as well as how to write professional hearing and policy briefs. Interns would also get the chance to work on a research project in the policy areas that AFSP is working on. And I got the chance to do some policy research on the effects made to protect and improve mental health condition of first responders in order to put together a policy brief in regard to this issue that helps to spark more advocacy effects. Last but not least, I also got the chance to help out and participate in the AFSP Annual Advocacy Forum, for which we would bring our advocates all across the nation to DC to advocate for suicide prevention on Capitol Hill. Such experience was truly something unique for summer interns and I got to meet with many passionate advocates and follow them to congressional office to advocate for subjects that would save life.
Even though it was the first time that I spent the entire summer in DC, I still felt like home there because the AFSP Public Policy Office was so caring and inspiring. I had learned a lot from John, Nicole, Chelsey, Natalie, Taylor and Connor, and my four fellow interns: Zoe, Peyton, Gabby H. and Gabrielle W. The entire office was so committed to the works of suicide prevention. Not only did I gain working skills but I also learned to be a dedicated team worker and someone who could take better care of herself both physically and emotionally. What I have valued the most about this internship, was how empowering it was. I got to talk about things that I am really passionate about, suicide prevention in diverse populations, and was empowered by the entire office to do works relative to it! The office never failed to give me more professional development opportunities by letting me to participate in various events and encourage me to think more about myself. My works also got valued by the team, which made me feel that I was not only learning from this experience but also was giving back and contributing to the team!
Thanks for this summer with AFSP, I became more prepare for my future jobs. In addition, I am more certain about turning advocacy from my passion in my career because I saw how many changes it can bring from working with AFSP! And I became a better advocate as well because of this internship. Thus, I will highly recommend everyone who is passionate about making changes and policy works to apply for this internship. It will definitely give you more than what you originally expected!
Peyton - Occidental College
Interning with AFSP has been an unforgettable experience, and I am deeply grateful for the opportunities, resources, and friendships these last three months have given me.
My favorite aspect of this job was going up to Capitol Hill, about a ten minute walk from the office, and attending Congressional hearings. Every week, I would check my Senate and House committee schedules and attend any hearings or briefings relevant to suicide prevention, mental health, or health care policy. It was incredible, and sometimes surreal, to sit behind a panel of witnesses in a full room of committee members, some of whom I have always looked up to. From time to time, members of Congress would stay after hearings closed to meet and speak with witnesses and members of the audience. I will never forget meeting Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez after a House Oversight Committee hearing on the opioid crisis. For me, every hearing was a learning and empowering experience, in which I was able to directly see the complex workings of our federal government.
Having personal connections to mental health disorders and suicide, it was comforting to work in such a supportive and fun office environment. Taylor, Nicole, Natalie, Connor, Chelsey, and John, along with fellow interns Gabrielle, Lei, Zoe, and Gabby, truly made me look forward to coming to work in the morning. I am thankful for their friendships, for what they’ve taught me, and for our time together over these last three months. Working for AFSP has definitely been one of my best decisions.
Zoe - University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
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.
Alex - Regent University
As a Public Policy Associate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I received so much more than an extra bullet point for my resume. This experience has given me the opportunity to marry my interest in mental health and my academic pursuits. I was able to advocate for the hopeless. I was able to contribute meaningfully to an organization that is passionate about offering hope and serious about effecting change at the highest level of our government and at the grassroots level. I was able to establish myself professionally and expand my network of contacts.
In sixteen short weeks, AFSP delivered a policy experience that the classroom could never convey. My graduate studies finally blossomed into practice. From the first day, I was fully immersed in the nation’s political heartbeat. I was on The Hill attending congressional hearings and meeting with congressional staffers; I was assisting field advocates and preparing state issue briefs. During my time, I met several Congressmen as well as my personal state delegates at Maryland’s State Capital Day. My colleagues and I attended numerous events including Bipartisan Policy Center briefings, Lily Advocacy Dialogue events, National Health Council meetings, Mental Health Liaison Group conferences, and more. We tracked federal and state legislation. I studied the significance of crisis lines and developed an issue brief to be used on The Hill as AFSP advocates for a 3-digit hotline number.
Of all the valuable aspects of this internship, the greatest was working with the AFSP Public Policy staff. Immediately, the office atmosphere was overwhelmingly welcoming. I was never treated like an intern here; I was always treated as a useful and respected member of the team. The staff entrusted me with critical duties and included every intern in their staff meetings. The Vice President, John Madigan, genuinely cares that his staff – including the interns – find success and encouraged us to accept every advantageous opportunity D.C. presented us. The AFSP Public Policy Associate experience is invaluable in every way. I will always be grateful for my time here as I move along in my career.
Joanna - Hofstra University
As a graduating senior, interning in D.C. for my last semester of undergrad seemed like the obvious choice to prepare for my initiation into the real world. What I could not have known before joining the AFSP Public Policy team as an Associate, was that this experience in D.C. would be one of the best of my life. The past three months here in D.C. have taught me more about advocacy, public policy, the legislative process, and my own professional goals and personal values than I ever could have expected. Combining my interests in politics, writing, and mental health advocacy, the Public Policy internship gave me the chance to learn my way around Capitol Hill and to further develop my professional skills.
Working in such a dedicated office for three months allowed me the opportunity to explore public policy as a career option and to experience the political climate that D.C. offers. Being part of the AFSP policy team afforded me the chance to attend hearings on the Hill, participate in State Capitol Days in different states, and create an issue brief on First Responder Suicides. The program allowed me to explore various facets of the professional culture in D.C., from nonprofit advocacy to political engagement. Not only was I working on projects and fulfilling tasks that pertained directly to suicide prevention and mental health policy, but I was encouraged to explore D.C. and to attend events that interested me specifically. With Natalie and my fellow intern, Pearl, I got to attend a rally on the steps of the Supreme Court lead by Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer. Accompanying Connor and Natalie to Hill meetings with Congressional staffers offered a valuable glimpse into what working on the Hill is like, and every few weeks I was able to attend panel discussions at the Bipartisan Policy Center that exposed me to new areas of study and different political perspectives.
From a personal perspective, I never could have foreseen how sad I was to leave the office at the end of my semester. Everyone in the office is so caring, welcoming, and encouraging, and I truly felt like a valued member of the team. The office culture is productive and warm, and it made coming into work every morning an absolute joy. Everyone cares deeply about their work, and that always motivated me to do my best regardless of the size of the task at hand. Working under the mentorship of Taylor, Natalie, Connor, Chelsey, Nicole, and John was the most rewarding experience—both professionally and personally—that I have had in all of my undergraduate studies.
Katie - Fitchburg State University
Coming down to DC from my little town in Western Massachusetts I wasn’t really sure what I was getting into, but in these short four months I have had an unforgettable experience. Working at AFSP has really opened my eyes to what it’s like to work in a nonprofit as well as the professional realm. Working as an intern at AFSP has allowed me to get an understanding of where I want to go next in my career. The knowledge and advice I have been given from the public policy team has been indispensable.
Since arriving here I have grown as a professional, due to the multitude of tasks that were allocated to me as an intern. At the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention I was given not just menial tasks, the work I did was valuable. In the first week of being here I was given a number of important responsibilities, such as tracking state and federal bills, tracking registrations and appointments for state capitol days, and even attending a committee hearing on the second day of work. Along with all of the responsibilities we were encourage to attend any meeting or hearing that interested us personally. Working at the Policy office of AFSP allowed me to get a better understanding of how our government is run. Coming into this internship I wanted to get a better understanding of the policy side of mental health and I received just that.
The policy team and the other interns has been the most supportive group of people I’ve had the pleasure of working with. They have encouraged me on a professional level that I will forever be grateful for. They helped me address emails, reach out to connect to people, and even offered to look at my resume. AFSP is a phenomenal place to work and has allowed me to grow as an individual. As I continue down my path in the mental health field I will look back at my time here in fondness and I’m thankful I had the opportunity to work here.
Pearl - Stockton University
Choosing to intern at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention was one of the best decisions I have ever made. I learned a tremendous amount of information about public policy and how our government operates. My eyes were also opened to how dire the suicide case is in our country and how crucial it is to advocate for suicide prevention. Working alongside Taylor, Natalie, Chelsey, Connor, Nicole, and John has been a wonderful experience. As a Public Policy Associate, I have gotten to see how policies and legislation move through both the federal and state governments.
Working at AFSP, each day was different. Somedays we would be in the office tracking state legislation and other days we would be going up to Capitol Hill to congressional hearings or going to a congressional briefing. Every day brought on a new challenge and I was able to reflect on and develop a number of skills.
The AFSP Public Policy office is a great environment to work in. Everyone working here is so welcoming and encouraging. The work being done in this office is changing and saving lives. As a Public Policy Associate, my opinions and ideas were valued and acknowledged and I was doing real, important work throughout the entire semester. One of the most important tasks that I was asked to do was to research Veteran and Military suicide. Throughout the semester, I conducted research on the subject and wrote up a rough draft for an issue brief that would be used later on to help advocate for the issue.
One of the most rewarding moments from my time at AFSP was traveling to the Maryland and Delaware State Capitol Days. Attending these events, I was able to see passionate advocates fight for suicide prevention in their home state. It really opened my eyes to the importance of the work we were doing and made me see how rewarding of an experience this had been. Spending a semester at AFSP and living in DC was a truly meaningful and exciting experience that I will hold with me forever.
Betsy - University of Rochester
One of the best decisions I’ve ever made was being a Public Policy Associate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention through The Washington Center (TWC) for the fall 2018 semester. It has been such an amazing experience to have worked with such dedicated, inspiring, and caring individuals. As a psychology and bioethics double major, the skills and experience I gained through my internship will provide me with the ability to have another perspective on mental health and how to potentially integrate that into my future career as a clinical psychologist. AFSP has provided me the opportunity to solidify my decision in continuing a career path in mental health work.
The beginning of my internship involved going to many hearings on the Hill for an array of issues whether they be on mental health, suicide prevention, or the opioid crisis. We attended many events, with one of the most notable being the 10th Anniversary for Mental Health Parity. The event, which was hosted by Patrick Kennedy, went over the much celebrated passing of mental health parity which enforces insurers to provide full coverage for mental health and substance abuse services as they do for physical health. Another great event we attended was the Cohen’s Veteran Summit which granted us insight into the many resources that are available for veteran suicide prevention and the newest technology being innovated to prevent, diagnose, and treat health issues. Events like these have offered me the opportunity to network with other individuals in the industry and further expand the various career options I can undertake to continue my desire to work in the mental health field.
The other responsibilities I held included tracking bills for certain committees, attending hearings and various other mental health related events, working on issue briefs, and other tasks for the wonderful staff. The correctional facilities brief was a very interesting task for me as it was a mixture of the two things I love most: research and writing. The topic itself was challenging at times given the few recent studies, however, it shed light on an issue that needs to be brought up to the forefront. I plan on continuing to advocate for this issue even when outside of AFSP. I also had the opportunity to work on the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) brief. I was able to see firsthand just how many meetings and frequent edits had to be undertaken in order to finalize a formal statement
This entire experience with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has shown me that not only is policy work really interesting, but that it is much more than just lobbying. It involves hours if not days of research, meetings, and revisions to get to the final piece of legislation that will benefit the country as a whole. Working alongside Taylor, Natalie, Chelsey, Connor, Nicole, and John (along with my co-intern Kara) has been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I am eternally grateful for being able to partake in this wonderful experience with such amazing people!
Kara - Ohio Northern University
I have always been able to create my own path in life but I never thought that path would have taken me all the way to Washington, D.C. Working for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention created a new sense of motivation and pride for myself. The work I did, no matter how large or small was appreciated amongst everyone in the office while also being respectively critiqued. My time was spent coming in each day with some activity to do. There was never a dull moment in the office because I was either going to a congressional hearing, watching a webinar, attending an event, or just working on other projects.
The office environment as a whole is extremely inviting. Everyone here was so nice and open to anything and everything. For me personally, I struggle with my finances and had to get a night job while I was here in D.C. The others in the office recognized my hard work and understood my situation. Sometimes the day is too much for me but I took comfort in the office to boost my mood and to be a listening ear to my thoughts.
This internship is more than just an extra point on a resume or an academic credit. It’s a cause that matters to so many people, it’s a learning opportunity to make a change, and it offers memories that you can’t find anywhere else. I will never forget my time at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention nor the people I have met. The only thing you can experience here is positivity and hope for a better future and that’s something everyone should try to achieve.
Alisha - Colby-Sawyer College
The two months I've spent in DC this summer as a Public Policy Associate for AFSP has been an experience to remember. As a Psychology and History/Political Studies double major at Colby-Sawyer College, this internship perfectly combined my two interests where I have always been passionate for mental health advocacy and recently became interested in policy. Prior to this internship I had no experience with policy, but have expanded my knowledge during my time here with a hands on experience I likely wouldn’t get other places. I’m grateful for everything I have learned here as well the amazing public policy team and other four associates. Everyone was always welcoming and made my contributions feel valued and appreciated, leaving me thankful to have been in this environment.
Within the first couple weeks interning at AFSP there was the annual advocacy forum. Being able to dive right in and help with this event was one of my favorite experiences of the summer. It was inspiring to meet advocates from all over the country, and I was able to connect with advocates from my home state of Maine. I was also fortunate enough to meet with both Maine senators, Susan Collins and Angus King. After the forum, my time was spent following four congressional committees, attending hearings, and researching and putting together an issue brief on banning conversion therapy. Through these experiences I was able to meet so many great people as well as get to see political figures in person that I previously had only seen in the media.
Altogether, the opportunity to intern with AFSP gave me the chance to take on meaningful work that deepened my knowledge on the legislative process, mental health policy, and advocacy work. While I am leaving the DC area, I am taking home with me an unforgettable experience that will continue to impact me in my future endeavors. I am incredibly grateful to have interned with AFSP this summer and I am proud to have been a part of an organization that advocates for such an important cause.
Andrew - George Mason University
If you are looking for a job that truly gives you the sense and gratification that the work you’re doing has substantial meaning and effect, the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention is probably a great match for you. My summer in the AFSP Public Policy Office has never ceased giving me the feeling that what I am doing will, somewhere, help someone who feels they have no one else to turn to. It has also helped me confront my own past experiences with suicide as well as allowing me to grow as a political science student.
The average week will have you attending Congressional briefings on the committees you are responsible for, tracking state legislative bills, or doing your own independent research project among many other things! Having previously interned in the House of Representatives, it was a unique experience to really delve into a particular policy and do concrete work opposed to scratching the surface on a number of things. I produced an Issue Brief on a topic I had never thought about in my life, the implementation of bridge barriers that act as means restriction for those attempting to take their life.
I also loved taking part in the annual AFSP Advocacy Forum, when hundreds of our advocates flood into Washington for a weekend of policy discussions, informational sessions, and a day on Capitol Hill where our advocates met with every member of Congress. I was lucky enough to meet Senators Chuck Schumer, Jon Tester, and Congressman Don Beyer.
It was a very special time to be here at AFSP, I was in the office the mornings the news about Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain broke. The national dialogue over the spread of this tragic disease was special to witness, seeing so many people in society taking up the call to end suicide. Spending these months with our terrific staff, as well as our other interns, Gabe, Charlotte, Alisha and Seth has made it all the better. Many people will ask, “Is it kind of depressing in the office working on such a saddening policy?” Not really, it’s a meaningful subject, but there was always laughter and happiness in the office, it’s a great time.
Internships are all about finding something that leaves a lasting impact on you, and I cannot think of many organizations that do this better than AFSP. You’ll love it, and I hope you join the team!
Looking back on my time here, I am proud to say that I have grown as a professional, an advocate, and an individual. I know now that I am capable of making a difference, and I am confident in my abilities to create change in my community. I plan to continue what I have done as a Public Policy Associate by pursuing law after undergraduate. My hope is to return to D.C. someday, but I will hang on to the memories I made and the kindness I was shown until then. Thank you AFSP for making these last three months the best time of my life, and I look forward to seeing what the future intern team accomplishes!
Charlotte - University of Iowa
My experience as a Public Policy Associate for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention has been one of the most exciting and fulfilling experiences I’ve had. Working with this office has been a fantastic opportunity to meet people who are passionate about what they are doing, who are affecting change, and who are always finding fun in what they do. As a Social Justice and Political Science major, I have always known that I wanted to go into advocacy in some capacity, and the work I have done here with the public policy office has shown me how I can combine my interests.
My internship began with the Annual Advocacy Forum, which was a whirlwind of activity, but was one of my favorite experiences of the summer. It gave the other interns and myself a platform to start our networking and allowed us to truly see how we can help make changes in policy. One of our big asks to representatives this year was to vote for HR 2345 to pass, and I have been lucky enough to be able to follow that bill and watch it pass from the House Energy and Commerce Committee on to the House, and then pass there as well. During the forum I was also able to make connections to advocates from my home state - people that I plan to continue to be in touch with when I return to Iowa for school.
My other responsibilities included tracking legislation in states I was assigned, monitoring hearings and markups for certain committees, and creating an issue brief. Creating my issue brief was fascinating. I began my issue brief about crisis lines’ funding very unsure about where it would go, but, by the end, was super excited about my topic and really determined to get as far as I could in my research because I understood how much of an effect it could make. I am now one of those people who could talk about their project for the next hour if you gave me the time.
My internship with AFSP has been an enlightening experience. I know now that what I want to do with policy and advocacy is possible and my experience with AFSP is what has allowed me have that confidence. I got to see how advocates can make a difference in policy during my time here which was exactly what I was hoping for coming to D.C. This internship has shown me how I can make an impact and how I can utilize my skills to affect change.
Gabe - Ohio State University
This summer I was a Public Policy Associate at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Public Policy office. This was my first time in D.C. for an extended period of time. I enjoyed my time and learned a lot while working alongside John, Nicole, Connor, Chelsea, Natalie, Taylor and 4 additional associates, Andrew, Alisha, Charlotte, and Seth. My time with AFSP has been fulfilling and impactful. Throughout only three short months, I have grown both professionally and personally under the guidance of AFSP’s Public Policy Team. As a Public Management, Leadership, and Policy major I was able to expand my knowledge of policies centered on suicide prevention. Additionally, I have a nonprofit management specialization and the internship gave me an opportunity to explore advocacy work.
I was the first intern in the office for the summer and on my first day, I began to realize all of the work and opportunities I would gain. Throughout the internship, I was tasked with several responsibilities. My first task was assisting in the development and execution of our Annual Advocacy Forum. AFSP’s Annual Advocacy forum was the moment when I realize that I was part of something extraordinary. Over 200 advocates came to Capitol Hill to promote suicide prevention as a national priority for legislators.
Each advocate represented a voice for their lost ones while inspiring hope for the future. Suicide is preventable and this collective effort and strong policies will induce change.
My second task consisted of attending congressional hearings. I was given 4 congressional committees. My two favorites included House Ways & Means and Senate HELP. I would report back with memos. Through this experience, I was able to see the world from a different angle. I was gaining current and substantial knowledge directly from senators and congressmen. This task sparked my interest to diversify the means in which I take in news and information.
For my third task, I was assigned 9 states and I had to track legislation. After analysis, I would write short summaries on enacted bills. Through this assignment, I gained vast knowledge of current laws and pending legislation. I became knowledgeable and familiar with the structure of a bill. My final task consisted of our intern project. I had the opportunity to take on a topic untouched by any other intern. I was responsible for building the foundation and setting the tone for a Mental Health Parity evidence brief. Through research, I gained essential information on mental health, substance care and healthcare in the United States.
At the end of the day if you're looking for a rewarding internship with an assortment of benefits AFSP’s the place for you. The job is convenient in so many ways. I would recommend this internship for years to come. I have gained so much knowledge on mental health and my writing skills have drastically improved. If you're smiling right now from the excitement I hope you apply, you’ll love it!
Seth - University of Florida
My time here as a Public Policy Associate has been unforgettable. I was able to live out my dream of living and working in DC, and that is all thanks to AFSP. Working in the office has taught me so much about public policy and advocacy. It allowed me to pursue my passion of advocating for mental health awareness and funding, as well as helped improve my research skills.
My first week at AFSP included their annual Advocacy Forum. Being surrounding by advocates from across the country taught me to be comfortable with my own story and what the power of a small group of dedicated, passionate people, can do. Everyone I met at the forum took the time to talk with me and share their stories, which helped me come to terms with my own story and how I can use it to affect change. The Forum also allowed for bonding between the office staff and associates in a way not possible without it. I could not have asked for a better first week and am looking forward to hopefully attending more in the future.
As part of my responsibilities here I was assigned Congressional Committees to track and attend their hearings. On top of this, the staff made it very clear that we were encouraged to attend other hearings and events that spoke to our interests. While we are here to work and gain experience, they also wanted us to experience DC and everything it has to offer. This allowed me to attend the Senate Judiciary hearing where Terry Crews gave a life-changing testimony about his experiences and attend a forum where Senator Tammy Duckworth spoke about work and experiences with disabilities.
For two and a half months, I was surrounded by people who care not only about the work, but the people who get the work done. Everyone gets along and act like friends hanging out all day, not just coworkers occupying the same space. They were all quick to bring myself and the other interns into that fold, making us feel welcome and cared for. They made us feel equal and important to the office dynamic, and I could not have asked for a better experience. This office is exactly the type of place I want to work in the future and I cannot wait to come to DC after graduation and live out my dream.
Katrina - Fitchburg State University
My time with AFSP has been nothing short of fulfilling and impactful. Throughout only three short months, I have grown both professionally and personally under the guidance of AFSP’s Public Policy Team. As a graduating senior, I wanted the very last semester of my undergraduate career to be one of the best, so I had very high expectations, and I was not disappointed. I first encountered AFSP when I expressed my interest in advocacy. After looking at the website, I fell in love with the organization and its active community involvement. From walks to rallies to workshops and and presentations, AFSP is dedicated to the individuals they fight for.
I loved that every person in the office encourages interns to be out in the community, networking with and listening to professionals. Any time there is a relevant hearing, panel, or event, the other intern and I were emailed the information and asked if we wanted to attend. We attended countless hearings on Capitol Hill, which I highly doubt that I would have done on my own. It’s one thing to learn about the process of legislation, but another to actually be able to witness it.
One of the small things that got me really excited on the first day was the realization that our titles are “Public Policy Associates.” It made me feel like an equal, as opposed to just an intern. We even received our own business cards! Even more significant was the work that we did. Our work was meaningful and we got to experience it from both behind the scenes and on the ground. For example, we update statistics (fact sheets) and priority legislation (issue briefs) for every state in preparation for their State Capitol Day. After helping to update the fact sheet and issue brief for Maryland, we were able to attend their State Capitol Day. We met Maryland Senators and Representatives, advocated for our cause, and listened to the stories of our volunteers. It was amazing to see the difference that AFSP makes, both in the lives of individuals and in the policies and procedures state- and nation-wide.
Advocating for suicide prevention and mental health awareness on a national level has allowed me to represent a larger group than I ever thought I was capable of. Advocating for others is both empowering and humbling. Through the issue briefs that I developed, I was able to address issues that I am passionate about, which align with what AFSP is passionate about. The freedom and flexibility, but also the structure and guidance, allowed me to grow on my own and within an organization.
Yazmin - Universidad UNILÍDER
Internships give you the opportunity to grow as a person and also as a professional. As an exchange student from Mexico, working with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention was a very pleasant experience. Being a Public Policy Associate this spring taught me a lot of things and provided me with many new experiences.
Washington, D.C. can be a scary and overwhelming place but it is the perfect city to meet new people and get to know yourself, and exactly what you want to do. My goal is to be an expert and help people who are suffering from eating disorders and I had the opportunity to meet with someone who was a very helpful resource and guided me onto trying to figure out how to start a professional career in this field, all thanks to John. Also, suicide is related to eating disorders in many ways, which made my experience even better at AFSP because I learned new ways to advocate and raise awareness. As a psychologist, this is extremely helpful and valuable.
I also had the opportunity to strengthen my research and writing skills. I have always known that doing research is one of my favorite things to do, especially when it comes to things that I enjoy learning more about. At AFSP I had the opportunity to do both. John and the rest of the team would encourage me to go hearings and different events, and then I would have to write a report about it. This helped very much.
Overall, was very helpful and I am very thankful and grateful for this experience. John, Nicole, Chelsey, Taylor and Connor were always nice and understanding and always made sure to give me a hand when I needed it.