“You, Your Experience – Together, Our
Advocacy 101
John Madigan– Senior Director of Public Policy, AFSP
Trevor Summerfield – Manager of Public Policy, AFSP
Ad – vo - cate
One that pleads the cause of
One that defends or maintains a
cause or proposal
One that promotes or supports the
interests of another
Nuts and Bolts of Being an Advocate
 Educate
 Educate
the public and other stakeholders
 Educate
public officials and their staff
Research the Issues
Go to:
Attend a national AFSP, AAS or SPRC conference
 Become and AFSP field advocate
 Participate in an AFSP webinar
 Learn about your state’s suicide prevention plan if one
 Subscribe to newsletters, social networking sites and
 Prepare
yourself and know the facts
 Personalize and localize the issues where
possible (AFSP state fact sheets provide
useful local information)
 Download and use fact sheets and issue
briefs prepared by the AFSP public policy
At the federal level consult
websites for AFSP public policy
 Examples:
• Reauthorization of SAMHSA and adequate funding
of Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act programs
• Legislation on veteran and military suicide
• Adequate funding of NIMH, NIAAA, NIDA
2011 Federal Policy Priorities
On December 1, 2010, the AFSP Board of Directors approved the recommendations from the
AFSP Public Policy Council regarding legislative and regulatory priorities to be pursued at the
federal and state level in calendar year 2011. AFSP/SPAN USA Public Policy staff will work with
AFSP/SPAN USA national volunteers, along with Chapter Field Advocates and AFSP Field staff
to attain the following goals and objectives.
The federal-level public policy priorities for calendar year 2011 are:
Achieve appropriations at the highest attainable level for Garrett Lee Smith Memorial Act
(GLSMA) programs.
Maintain veteran and military personnel suicide prevention and education programs as a top
priority for Congress, the Administration, DOD and the Department of Veterans Affairs.
Encourage the National Institutes of Health (NIH) to invest more substantially in research related
to suicide prevention and work with Congress to appropriate more dollars in this area.
Fund the National Violent Death Reporting System (NVDRS) with enough money to cover the
program in all fifty states.
Monitor and respond as necessary to the implementation/potential scale back of health care
reform laws as they relate to mental health parity and any other issues related to mental or
behavioral health.
Achieve reauthorization of the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration
Achieve authorization and funding of Native American youth suicide prevention and education
programs at the highest levels possible.
Achieve authorization and funding of LGBT data collection, support for safe schools and antibullying efforts.
Achieve authorization and funding of bridge barrier projects like the Golden Gate Bridge.
Achieve authorization and or funding of bullying and cyber-bullying programs and projects.
2011 State Policy Priorities
The state-level public policy priorities and activities for calendar year 2011 for AFSP
Chapter volunteers and staff, in consultation with national AFSP Public Policy staff are:
Review and establish a base line understanding of what current exists in each state relative to:
– Statewide suicide prevention plan or initiative. How and why this plan operates in the state.
What improvements/updates/laws need to be made if any?
– What state or local requirements are there for training of school personnel on suicide
prevention and education? What needs to be done to improve, update or legislate in this
– What are the current state laws or regulations on bullying, including cyber-bullying and
electronic harassment? What still needs to be done in this area?
In addition, each Chapter/state will be asked to evaluate the opportunity for a “Visit to the State
Capital Day” as a means to educate the governor and state lawmakers on suicide education and
Each Chapter/state will be asked to review and verify that AFSP Public Policy office has the latest
and most accurate information. Each Chapter/state will assess what fits their situation best. In this
case, one size may not fit all. For example, in some states a free-standing separate suicide
prevention office may work, in others, a hybrid agency/organization might work best. Each
Chapter/state will be encouraged to complete this analysis and action plan in the months of
November, December and January, to facilitate activity and programs that will allow for timely
implementation of laws and or programs to facilitate suicide prevention and education in a
particular state.
 At
the federal level, access websites like –
Key Phone Numbers to Know
 White
 US
House Switchboard
• 202-224-3121
• 202-225-3121
Google your state government and
legislature web sites, e.g.
www.alabama.gov and
www.illinois.gov and
 www.ilga.gov
www.wv.gov and
 www.legis.state.wv.us
Federal and State Legislative Process –
Similarities and differences?
At the state level, beyond
legislative issues  Plan
a Suicide Awareness Event in your
State Capitol
 Ask
the Governor to declare a statewide
Suicide Prevention Week
 Form
a state commission for suicide
Federal and State Advocacy Recap
 Research
your issue – organize your
armed with the facts – Localize and
 Be
 Federal,
state and local suicide
prevention, education and research
Reach out to Survivors 
Support groups at
local hospitals,
hospices, places of
worship, community
centers and schools
Try to get Survivors
interested in the
AFSP Field Advocate
Reach out to local media -
Establish relationships with local reporters
Write a letter to the Editor or an Op-Ed piece for
your local paper
 Provide dates and times for survivor meetings
and education classes to media
 Review AFSP media guidelines
Speak at a city/town Council or School
Board meeting, benefits include Opportunity
to speak to a large number of
public officials at once
 Reach
like-minded members of your
 Make
contact with local reporters covering
the meeting
Reaching out Locally - Recap
 Reach
out to Survivors
 Local
suicide prevention and education
 Local
 Other
local opportunities to reach out
Reaching out to Public Officials
You can
Write, phone or email Members of Congress or other
Make an appointment to meet your public officials
Work on and distribute nonpartisan analyses and
Provide technical assistance and advice to legislative
Provide testimony
Write letters to the editor, appear on television or
Encourage family, neighbors and friends to be
Reaching out to Public Officials
 You
can not –
Use your non-profit/corporate affiliation to
endorse or oppose candidates
Use your non-profit/corporate affiliation for
any electioneering
When speaking or visiting with a
Public Official
Be brief – brevity is appreciated
 Explain your personal or professional interest in suicide
prevention issues
 Know how the issue affects suicide prevention,
education or research
 Know precisely what you want the public official to do
 Offer to be a resource on suicide prevention issues
 Leave behind short issue briefs or other information
 Be cordial
 If you have time, follow up with a thank you note
When writing or emailing a public official
 Fully
state your case, using the same facts
you would in a visit
 Make clear you expect a prompt response
 Be polite and courteous, never threaten or
 If possible, follow up with a phone call, and
say so in your letter or email
Reaching Out to Public Officials - Recap
 Communicating
with your elected officials
and their staff – Be brief and to the point!
or emailing an elected official –
Make your case clearly!
 Writing
with your elected official –
Remember their staff is important!
 Visiting
Stay in Touch! Become a Resource
to your Elected Officials!
Making a Difference!
Thank You!
John Madigan, Senior Director of Public Policy
Trevor Summerfield, Manager of Public Policy
American Foundation for Suicide Prevention
1010 Vermont Avenue, NW, Suite 408
Washington, DC 20005
[email protected]
[email protected]
202-449-3600 phone
202-449-3601 fax

Advocacy 101 - American Foundation for Suicide Prevention