Some moments from our day on Capitol Hill:
Russell Senate Building
All six of us Ohioans met with legislative aides to our two United States senators, and then we broke into pairs and met with five or six aides to our representatives. In one case, the Representative himself joined his aide for a meeting with us.
This one was fun!
Some of the aides are outstanding. Health care clinicians in the case of both Senators, and one other knowledgeable, interested, and articulate aide - background unknown - to a representative. All the aides were attentive and open to hearing from us, although one young man was clearly unsettled by the word "suicide." I figure that it was a public service on our part to force him to listen to it, over and over again.
We told our personal stories, those also over and over again, and pushed our legislative agenda, over and over again. Most of us had prepared one page vignettes (mine is a few blog posts back) to leave with the legislators. It's a difficult moment, to push that picture and bio across a table and think, "It should be a wedding picture, or a photo with a new baby, or a picture taken ten years from now and marking a professional achievement -- all things which will never happen."
With United States Representative David Joyce of Ohio
I was paired with a dynamite young woman named Emily, about to graduate from college and begin graduate school in the same master's program in social work which my daughter completed a year ago, plus a certificate program in nonprofit management. Emily's life trajectory was changed when her uncle died two years ago. She makes a compelling case for the Mental Health First Aid Act when she describes his last hour on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, his only companion a young police officer who had no crisis training and did not even think to call for back-up.
As we talked to our legislators and to each other over the course of the nine-hour day, Emily and I found ourselves repeatedly expressing our astonishment at finding ourselves where we were. From lives devoid of knowledge about or interest in suicide, to months of immobilizing shock and pain, to new priorities, to the halls of Congress. Who could have imagined? But there it is, as the quote that probably isn't Gandhi's at all says,
Be the change you want to see in the world.