Richard B. Kirchhoff Public Policy Internships
Get hands-on training and experience in federal and state public policy and advocacy at the nation’s leading voluntary health organization dedicated to saving lives and bringing hope to those affected by suicide.
The Richard B. Kirchhoff Public Policy Internship program is an opportunity for college and graduate students to develop knowledge and insights on key health policy issues; the challenges and opportunities related to preventing suicide and improving mental health at a systems-wide level; and the role of public policy and advocacy in public health.
Internship structure and responsibilities
The Richard B. Kirchhoff Public Policy Internship is currently operating in a hybrid format and located in Washington, D.C.
The internship runs from fall through the spring, and may extend into summer.
Interns must be enrolled in a higher education institution and receive academic credit for participating in the internship with AFSP.
Internship responsibilities include:
- Assist with legislative, regulatory, and grassroots advocacy activities aligned with AFSP’s public policy priorities
- Track and research federal and state policy issues, legislation, and regulation
- Attend relevant Congressional hearings and coalition meetings
- Complete at least one special / long term project
Additional advocacy opportunities
- Take action TODAY on the AFSP Action Center
- Sign up as an AFSP Volunteer Advocate to stay connected to AFSP Advocacy and get updates on new opportunities to take action
- Go to our Advocacy Resources page for additional learning resources.
- View our Policy Priorities, including University and College Campus Suicide Prevention
- Attend a State Capitol Day, an annual event where AFSP advocates can meet with their state legislators to discuss top suicide prevention and mental health policy priorities
- Host an Out of the Darkness Campus Walk
2022 - Jackson - Pepperdine University
I was granted an opportunity to work with AFSP as a public policy associate this spring. Working in the public policy office was a transformative experience for me. Committing myself to such a pressing issue, guided by the talented public policy team, I was able to gain new insights on what policy makers do on a day-to-day basis at both the state and federal level.
The COVID-19 pandemic made the internship a different experience than most other interns have, but the staff still made sure to make me a feel part of the team. The pandemic did bring attention to the mental health crisis in the United States, which was exciting to be a part of. This internship gave me many things to look forward to, such as the implementation of 988 and a possible mental health package in Congress.
On the federal side, I had lots of great opportunities to learn how the legislative process works. Due to the attention the pandemic brought to mental health, there were many interesting hearings to attend regarding suicide prevention. Also, one of my favorite tasks was to attend meetings with congressional offices. On the state side, I tracked legislation and was even able to attend meetings with my home state of Oklahoma's chapter.
2022 - Nathaniel - Brigham Young University
I am forever grateful for the opportunity I had to be a part of the Public Policy team at the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. Prior to my time in D.C., I was focused on my Psychology and Premedical coursework and knew that I needed to engage in public policy work. As an Associate, AFSP enhanced my understanding of the role of advocacy and allowed me to be directly involved in the legislative process.
Notably, this experience helped me channel my passion for behavioral healthcare and suicide prevention into meaningful work. In line with the public policy priorities of AFSP, I was able to assist the office on state and federal policy initiatives which included bill tracking, attending educational workshops, and analyzing Congressional hearings. I was also mentored by Stephanie, who helped me develop my individual research project on healthcare provider mental healthcare. These responsibilities all contributed to my personal and professional development and made me appreciate the opportunities offered through this internship.
2021 - Julia - Central Michigan University
I am very grateful for the opportunity to work for the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention as a public policy associate during the Fall 2021 semester. This internship experience challenged me to apply knowledge and skills from my undergraduate programs at Central Michigan University in a professional setting. I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to the public policy team in Washington, D.C. for mentoring me throughout this semester and investing in my journey as a young professional.
Prior to this internship, I had a fundamental knowledge of mental health. I was able to apply my passion for mental health issues, passion for advocacy, and curiosity for learning to help further AFSP’s mission: to “Save Lives and Bring Hope to Those Affected by Suicide.” I completed many projects, including my individual project on suicide prevention in correctional facilities, and assisted the federal and state teams in research. I also had the opportunity to attend congressional hearings and write briefs. Now, I can confidently speak about prevalent suicide prevention policy priorities and identify areas where legislation can be improved to better support suicide prevention and mental health in the United States.
2021 - Francesca - Ohio State University
This fall, I had the incredible opportunity to work with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s Public Policy team in Washington, DC. My time at AFSP has been the most meaningful professional experience I have had. Coming into this internship, I was hoping to gain experience in the policy side of public health, but I walked away with so much more. In October, I attended the National Capital Area Chapter’s Out of the Darkness Walk and saw the impacts of AFSP’s work on the community. Advocating for policies that affect people’s lives in such a powerful way will stay with me throughout my life, and I hope that the work I do in the future can have as great of an impact as the work of AFSP. Working as a public policy associate has helped me develop not only the skills I need for my career, but also perspective on what matters in a career.
During my time with AFSP I worked remotely, but that didn’t stop me from having a great DC experience. I still got to meet with Congressional staffers, attend important hearings, and see the policymaking and advocacy process up close. Even though we worked virtually, I was able to connect with everyone on the team through our weekly meetings and occasional visits to the office. The support and encouragement that I received from the policy team made my experience all the more impactful. At AFSP, the team valued my voice and encouraged me to take on projects that aligned with my interests. Throughout the semester, I always had an important project to contribute to – whether I was tracking Congressional hearing activity for my committees, drafting AFSP’s responses to Senators and Representatives, attending relevant webinars, or researching for my individual project on peer support, there was always something valuable to do. I didn’t have any experience in policy before interning with AFSP and the skills I gained over the past three months in policy analysis, advocacy, and communication will serve me throughout the rest of my career.
I am so grateful for my time at AFSP. Working with the public policy office has allowed me to grow personally and professionally. Through my experience, I gained a nuanced understanding of suicide prevention policies and their real-life impacts. Working with AFSP solidified my interest in mental health advocacy and provided me with the belief that I can make a real difference.
Become a Volunteer Advocate
Are you interested in becoming a Volunteer Advocate? By signing up as a volunteer advocate, you join thousands of other advocates as a vital part of AFSP’s large grassroots network with the resources and tools to speak out for suicide prevention and mental health at all levels of government.