This semester I had the pleasure of interning with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention. I worked hands on with a wonderful staff and learned so much from John, Trevor, Nicole, and the three other public policy associates. Traveling to Washington D.C. was an incredible experience as a Political Science major; spending a semester in the heart of the political world was definitely a highlight of my college career. Living in the nation’s capitol and getting a firsthand look at policy implementation was rewarding and life changing and I am glad I had the opportunity to work for such an important and influential non-profit organization.
Over the course of the semester I learned more about policy creation from my time with the AFSP and quickly became well versed in mental health legislation in a variety of fields. I was assigned five congressional committees to track and attend relevant hearings pertaining to mental health issues including committees on Veterans Affairs and Indian Affairs. This allowed me an insider’s look at how bills are debated and revised. I saw outside organizations, non-profits similar to our own, and expert witnesses speak on panels on behalf of proposed legislation and documented these hearings with a write-up following every committee hearing I attended. These reports were then published on our website to keep all of our field advocates up to date on the policy updates happening in D.C.!
The most rewarding part of my internship was the 2014 Annual AFSP Public Policy Forum; it was both educational and motivational. As I said on the first day of the forum it was very rewarding to put a face to the names on the vignettes I had been editing, and to meet each advocate and field staff member that attended. Getting to go on hill visits was a unique opportunity and I learned a lot from that experience and now have a better understanding of the role that interest groups and other organizations play in the legislative process. I can now say that I met with representatives and lobbied them for support- an experience that will help me in the future. From planning to the execution of this event I have obtained many new skills, such as organization and planning, along with strengthening my communication and listening skills. This was a great experience and I will never forget it.
I am so grateful for this learning opportunity and for all of the tools and recourses I have acquired through my internship with AFSP. I would highly recommend this internship as it provided me with the opportunity to work for the important cause of mental health parity and gave me the opportunity to work with such an amazing staff.