My internship experience with the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention this summer 2014 was fantastic! First of all, I liked the fact that we weren’t called “the interns”, but the Public Policy Associates. Just the fact that our title was Public Policy Associate made a difference; it really gives you more value, makes you feel part of the team and shows you that you have a relevant responsibility. It doesn’t stop at this title though, as Public Policy Associate I had the responsibility to keep track of all new bills or news articles related to mental health and suicide prevention in exactly 13 states. I also had to keep track of the bill AB 2198 process which is a bill that proposes to ensure certain mental health professionals are adequately trained to assess, treat, and manage suicidal individuals. As an international student, the state legislation process was new to me, but I feel more informed now thanks the Public Policy team. Then, I had the opportunity to attend congressional meetings, and different other briefings for instance, at the U.S Department of Health and Human Services and many other important locations. I even had the chance to obtain a certificate in a training called Safe TALK. The objective of SafeTALK is to be suicide alerted; to know the signs and symptoms, know what to do, as well as refer a person in crisis to get help; I liked this part of the internship as well because it was really practical. The responsibilities and experiences that I had as a Public Policy Associate really made me feel valued.
On top of that, this experience made me more aware of the importance of mental health. I always thought that suicide was a terrible thing but actually never thought too much about it; and here I learned that suicide can happen to anyone, and that it is important to be alerted so that you can help the people around you and even yourself. Attending the briefings, reading articles on suicide and mental health really taught me a lot that I am sharing with friends and family today. There are many places where we go, many places that we visit, but only some of them leave a mark in our lives and this office has definitely left a mark in my life. I am so grateful for the experience I had; Nicole was very patient explaining me the political process here in the U.S and showing me how it all works; John has really been a good supervisor, really approachable making sure we were all comfortable; he also never hesitated to give such great and wise advice that will certainly guide me in the future; Trevor was also very knowledgeable and always ready to help in any way possible, he also knows almost all the good restaurants in D.C I think!
Finally, I really want to thank this great team for all their hard work to be as much effective as they can. Suicide prevention is a great cause and I wish you all the best for the future.
It has been a very constructive summer and I know I will be able to use the skills I have gained here in the future.