Before starting my summer as an intern for the Suicide Prevention Action Network, the public policy sector of the American Foundation for Suicide Prevention, I had a strong interest in mental health issues but nearly no experience in public policy. This internship turned out to be the perfect balance between helping those in need and understanding public policy first hand. It was, by far, one of the most outstanding summer experiences I have ever had.
This internship provides you with a behind-the-scenes look at public policy through the inner workings of a non-profit organization. You are immersed in a professional environment where you gain valuable experience in research and educating congressmen and government officials on the issue of suicide and suicide prevention. This is unlike any other summer internship in that you don’t end up getting coffee for anyone or making copies all day long. You are given crucial and challenging projects from day one and are treated with the same level of professionalism as everyone else. Along with the projects, you have the chance to attend incredible hearings in the Senate and House, and conferences with other key organizations, such as the National Institute of Mental Health.
Apart from the public policy aspect of this internship, it was rewarding to be able to work for such a cause; help prevent suicide and spread awareness all throughout the country. You get to work with field advocates—those who have had personal experience with suicide and garnered the drive to spread awareness of suicide in their local communities. It is most gratifying to see that these field advocates are organizing Suicide Awareness Day in their hometown or getting their state’s Senators to sponsor suicide prevention bills.
My experience would not have been as fun or educational if it weren’t for the AFSP public policy staff. Not only were they incredible role models for their level of professionalism, they were kind and understanding in my efforts to know my way around public policy. In every step of the way, they showed me the skills and gave me the knowledge that I know I will use in my future with non-profit organizations.