As a Master’s of Social Work student with a clinical background, I was apprehensive about completing my graduate internship with the Suicide Prevention Action Network USA, the public policy arm of the American Foundation of Suicide Prevention. My apprehension was unfounded, as I quickly learned; my 2009-2010 internship was easily one of the most rewarding and educational times of my social work career thus far.
As an intern with SPAN, you champion the cause of suicide prevention, education, and research to the nation’s policy makers. There was never a “typical” day at SPAN; one day I might attend a coalition or Hill meeting, the next I would continue learning to use legislative tracking services to research current bills. One of the best experiences that occurred during my time with SPAN was the 2010 Legislative Institute. After spending months preparing for the event, you can imagine my excitement when we were finally given the chance to host suicide prevention advocates from all over the country. It is at this event that I really began to see how powerful advocacy can be. I was inspired by presentations given by Brigadier General Lorree Sutton and my AFSP MSW supervisor, Mary Jean Coleman; I learned more about the political process in these 2 days than in my 18 years of formal education.
The best part of interning at SPAN is the staff that I get to work with daily. The AFSP public policy staff understands an intern’s needs and wants. They were able to teach me a great deal while also respecting that I had knowledge of my own to share. Their experience, knowledge, and general kindness are reasons why I had a successful year.
To be an intern at SPAN, one must have strong research and writing skills, as well as an interest in the American political process. The most important quality however is a deep concern about the lives of people who are affected daily because of suicide. This passion drove me to SPAN, and has increased exponentially throughout my time here. I am truly lucky to have had the opportunity to work with the AFSP/SPAN staff and increase my legislative knowledge.