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Phoebe Supports Employees During National Suicide Prevention Week

Albany, GA | September 9, 2022 – Even through her mask, it was easy to tell Sara Cornwell had a smile on her face as she handed out candy and flyers to caregivers on an inpatient unit at Phoebe’s main hospital Friday morning. As the Lead Therapist for Phoebe’s Employee Assistance Program (EAP), her upbeat attitude and genuine concern for her colleagues are evident, but she knows a healthcare worker’s smile can often mask their pain.

“Our employees see crises every day. Even the most capable individual will have some experiences that they may need to work through. Just because we’re healthcare workers doesn’t mean we’re exempt from being impacted by the things we see,” Cornwell said.

In conjunction with National Suicide Prevention Week, Phoebe’s EAP launched a “Behind the Smiles” campaign. This week, therapists visited each patient floor at every Phoebe hospital, as well as many non-clinical departments and outpatient clinics. They handed out those cards that included phone numbers for EAP, the Georgia Crisis and Access Line and the national Suicide & Crisis Lifeline. More importantly, they looked employees in the eye and let them know it’s okay to ask for help.

“Mental health challenges, even suicidal thoughts, can happen to anyone. We need to acknowledge it and treat it. It doesn’t need to define us. It doesn’t mean you’re abnormal. It just means you have a medical diagnosis that needs treatment just like any other diagnosis,” she said.

The issue is even more sensitive and timely for the Phoebe Family, following the suicides of two frontline caregivers in the last year. “Talking about suicide is a very uncomfortable conversation for most of us, but it has always been a part of mental health that we need to discuss and educate people on,” Cornwell said. “That’s especially true after the pandemic. COVID has had such a psychological impact on many healthcare workers.”

Phoebe’s EAP offers free therapy sessions for every Phoebe employee, as well as their spouses and children. While many people may not have such easy access to mental health care, Cornwell stresses that resources are available in the community, and she encourages everyone to focus on their mental health and take advantage of those resources, when needed. “Phoebe’s outpatient Behavioral Health Clinic is one outstanding option,” Cornwell said. “We have some amazing clinicians there who offer therapy and medication management, often with great results.”

She said we should all be aware of warning signs of depression and potential suicide in others, such as mood changes or becoming isolated or withdrawn. “We need to be willing to listen and offer a hand.  Just say, ‘hey, I just wanted to check in on you.’  You may be surprised by the response.”

Cornwell said we should also get in the habit of discussing our mental health with our primary care physician, particularly if we notice any changes in our feelings and outlook. Your main doctor may be able to help you manage your mental health or refer you to a specialist for additional care. If you would like to request an appointment at Phoebe Behavioral Health, call 229-312-7001. For more immediate help, the number to the Georgia Crisis and Access Line is 1-800-715-4225. The new National Suicide & Crisis Lifeline is 988.

The American Foundation for Suicide Prevention recognizes the month of September as National Suicide Prevention Month. This year, Sept. 4-10 is National Suicide Prevention Week, and World Suicide Prevention Day is Sept. 10. Suicide prevention resources are available at the organization’s website