My time with AFSP has been nothing less than eye-opening. As a psychology major, with a concentration in counseling, my knowledge and experience regarding public policy was very little. Coming in for the summer as a public policy associate I knew that I would gain a better understanding of what public policy works towards and what it takes for AFSP, as a grassroots organization, to run effectively. I soon realized that the public policy aspect of AFSP plays a significant role in the lives of individuals across the country.
As a public policy associate, I was a part of educating new field advocates through phone conferences about what their duties as field advocates for their state would entail. Additionally, I, too, was learning about AFSPs mission on the federal level. Having continuous contact with potential and incoming field advocates was a great learning experience because I was able to articulate AFSPs mission through e-mail correspondence and phone conversations. I also got the chance to hear from potential field advocates pertaining to why they wanted to join the AFSP team. Hearing these various reasons, demonstrated just how much of an impact AFSP contributes to the community, not just from a public policy point of view, but also from a counseling perspective, as well. For many of AFSPs field advocates, they have been affected in some way by suicide, so having the field advocate program for them to get involved with, I found, becomes almost like a coping mechanism and brings solace to our field advocates knowing that there are other like minded individuals across the country who feel that suicide and mental illness is something that needs to be addressed, instead of being quietly pushed aside.
Being able to see the increase in field advocates at AFSP has shown me that working in public policy makes a difference. The work that John, Nicole, and Trevor do does not go unnoticed because people from across the country continue to sign up. Being a part of AFSPs growth and helping others realize that they, too, can make a difference through this organization was more than I could have ever asked for. I am truly honored to have had the opportunity to work with the AFSP team this summer, it has motivated me to continue to spread AFSPs message once I leave D.C. and head back to my home state of South Carolina.