By: Lauren Porter
The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention’s mission is to save lives and bring hope to those affected by suicide. We fund research to improve interventions, train clinicians in suicide prevention, and advocate for policy that will save lives.
We know that suicide prevention stretches far beyond training people to recognize the signs of suicide prevention and connecting people to necessary resources. While this piece is critical, the AFSP doesn’t stop there. Their mission and work also encompasses two other components: funding research and advocating for better suicide prevention and mental health policy.
How does AFSP engage in public policy initiatives?
In 2020, 27 state bills and 5 federal bills that the AFSP worked on were enacted into law. One of these was the National Suicide Hotline Improvement Act, designating 988 as a national three-digit dialing code to reach a crisis line starting in 2022.
Each year, the AFSP designates a list of policy priorities. Their 2021-22 policy priorities are categorized into nine groups:
● Crisis lines funding and support
● Mental health parity
● K-12 school suicide prevention
● Military and Veteran suicide prevention
● Extreme risk protection orders
● Health professional training in suicide assessment, treatment, and management
● Conversion therapy bans
● University and college campus suicide prevention
● Statewide suicide initiatives and plans
If you want to read more in-depth about their policy priorities and positions, check out their state policy list and their federal policy list.
What’s the Field Advocate program?
The Field Advocate program helps you become a vital part of AFSP’s large grassroots advocacy network and be given the resources and tools to speak out for suicide prevention and mental health at all levels of government. The AFSP has thousands of advocates who are speaking out and fighting for essential suicide prevention and mental health policies to save lives, and anyone can join in these efforts! Many of the strides the AFSP has made are due to the thousands of advocacy volunteers who create a united voice around creating better policy.
So, what does it mean to be a Field Advocate? First, you will receive a monthly email update from the policy office updating you on current legislation and policies and optional ways that you can support them. It will let you know about upcoming events, such as State Capitol Days, passed legislation, and links to easily send letters of support to your elected officials on any of the policies that you support.
Field Advocates are given tools to utilize on social media, such as informational graphics and petitions, to help raise awareness and get others involved in the cause. They also provide things like templates if you are interested in sending a written letter to an elected official.
You’ll also be the first to know information about State Capitol Days and the annual Washington DC Advocacy Forum. These are advocacy events that many volunteers choose to attend. They “bring advocates together with state and local public officials to share information and urge that suicide prevention be made a priority.” You can find out the date for your state by using the “Find a Local Chapter” feature on the AFSP website. Advocates will have the opportunity to show up, speak with legislators, and share information and personal stories.
These events have lead to the passing of state bills such as bans on conversion therapy, required suicide prevention trainings in K-12 schools, insurance reform for mental healthcare parity, and creation of state suicide prevention task forces.
What are the minimum requirements?
There are no requirements to be a Field Advocate. Signing up simply sends you monthly email updates with steps that you can take if you choose to. Reviewing the legislation, contacting elected officials, posting on social media, or attending events is completely optional. You can do as much or as little as you want. You are also not required to agree on every piece of legislation and priority that the AFSP is working on. You’re free to advocate solely for the ones that you support.
How do I join?
Sign-up here through their Public Policy Action Center!
Not quite sure about becoming a Field Advocate? You can still view their directory on state and federal bills on their website to see current legislation being worked on and get an update on priorities and advocacy events at any time.
Suicide Prevention Lifelife (24/7): 1-800-273-8255
Crisis Text Line (24/7): Text TALK to 741-741
TrevorLifeline (LGBTQ+ Crisis Hotline): 1-86–488-7386
How to Find Mental Health Treatment
SAMHSA Substance Use & Mental Health Treatment Finder AFSP’s #RealConvo Guide