Becoming an Advocate
By John Madigan, Senior Director of Public Policy, American Foundation of Suicide Prevention
Historically and still today, suicide has been ignored as a major health problem, often misunderstood and stigmatized despite the significant number of people impacted by suicide. Each of the over 36,000 suicides completed annually is estimated to produce at least six, and as many as hundreds, of “survivors of suicide loss,” or people left behind to grieve. Increasingly, these survivors are willing to “get involved” to prevent the loss of additional lives to suicide, just as grassroots advocates have changed the course of other national health concerns. Our cause is just, our case is compelling, and our constituency is large and ready. Our potential to be successful is great…and will save lives.
Reducing the toll of suicide will be impacted by our ability to improve public policies at the national, state and local levels. Strong advocacy is needed to make sure that the right policies are put in place and that they continue to be supported and improved over time. The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention (AFSP) is committed to building, nurturing and maintaining a robust public policy program along with a Field Advocate program to ensure suicide prevention is a national health priority.
The AFSP/SPAN USA Field Advocate program operates throughout the United States with a goal of at least two Field Advocates for each congressional district. Field Advocates are recruited from current and developing AFSP Chapters, AFSP Out of the Darkness community walk participants, as well as other community members interested in the goals of suicide prevention. The Field Advocate program recruits, trains, educates, motivates, organizes and supports a team of advocates who will (1) help educate and influence public officials about policies affecting suicide and suicide prevention; (2) build ongoing relationships with those public officials and their staff, as well as other community leaders; (3) contribute to and promote AFSP policies and priorities approved through the AFSP Public Policy Council and AFSP Board of Directors; (4) organize and encourage advocacy participation by others in their organizations and communities; and (5) work with other groups and organizations to gain support for suicide prevention.
For more information on specific issues of interest, please go to www.spanusa.org. AFSP/SPAN USA’s National Public Policy Resource Center provides you with updated information on a range of issues at both the federal and state levels. Applications can also be found on the SPAN USA website. Please contact John Madigan, Senior Director of Public Policy at email@example.com, or by phone at 202-449-3600, ext. 103, if you have any questions.