As a behavioral health service treatment supervisor Erin Poniewaz helps people in need on a daily basis, but it is what she does once a year that sets her apart as one of Mercy's Saints Among Us.
This year, as we celebrate Mercy Day - the opening of the first House of Mercy in Dublin, Ireland, in 1827 - we also celebrate co-workers who exemplify Mercy values and mission.
Earlier this month Mercy Hospital Jefferson hosted its annual Suicide Awareness and Prevention Conference. More than 200 participants attended, and they found healing, hope and educational resources. With the assistance of the Behavioral Health Department, Erin initiated the program four years ago to begin a conversation about suicide in our community.
“When we get people talking about it, we decrease the stigma,” Erin said.
Her 20-year-old brother committed suicide almost 10 years ago. The conference is a way to honor him and to try to make sense of his loss while helping others. A remembrance wall at the conference allows people to share their stories.
The conference is for those who have lost loved ones, as well as mental-health professionals, first responders, teachers, clergy, and others who may have direct contact with people in crisis.
“Suicide doesn’t discriminate, so we try to reach out to as many audiences as we can,” Erin said.
The keynote speaker this year was Kevin Hines, a survivor and mental health advocate who survived a jump from the Golden Gate Bridge and lives to share his personal journey of hope.