Restaurant Group Joins Suicide-Prevention Initiative

The #86TheStigma campaign combines a state agency and charity along with the Georgia Restaurant Association’s advocacy strengths.

The Georgia Restaurant Association has partnered with two other groups to support suicide prevention in the industry.

Earlier this month GRA announced its participation in #86TheStigma, a campaign created along with Georgia’s Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities and Giving Kitchen, a nonprofit that supports food-service workers in need. The campaign is designed to alert restaurant workers and patrons to the 988 Suicide and Crisis Lifeline.

#86TheStigma is also intended to draw broader attention to the wellness challenges within the food-service industry. According to a release from the campaign, there were at least 224 suicides within the food-service profession between 2017 and 2021, and a CDC report noted that food-service workers “face a much higher risk of dying from drug overdoses compared to other professions, second only to construction workers. The rate of overdose deaths is worryingly high—about 130 deaths for every 100,000 workers.”

The CDC found that food service workers are at a high risk of drug overdose, second only to construction workers.

The campaign began as a collaboration between DBHDD and Giving Kitchen, said GRA VP of Development Sarah Thorson, but GRA was quick to sign on. “While Giving Kitchen has outreach to an audience of restaurant workers, our outreach is geared toward the owners and operators of the restaurants” in addition to suppliers and vendors, she said.

GRA’s role in the campaign has been to assist with the design of the campaign (led by two firms, Lexicon Strategies and Sarah Lawrence Design) and to spread the word through email and its social media channels. As a trade association, GRA is also using its advocacy arm to bring word about the campaign and industry wellness to the state capitol. “We have boots on the ground there, can talk to legislators and make them aware [of the campaign],” she said. “So when a bill around this comes up, we can tag on and are ready to go.”

In the meantime, GRA has created a dedicated #86TheStigma website that includes promotional materials and messaging such as “You are not alone” and “Talk with us,” sample posts, and links to other 988 resources, including ways to contact speakers who can speak with workers directly. 

In the first two weeks of the campaign, the GRA has drawn 40 actively participating restaurants, which Thorson said represents 2,500 service workers and 50,000 patrons a week. As the campaign continues through the spring, Thorson said she’s confident more will join in.

“We’re getting awareness of the program out to our members, but we believe it will serve and help all restaurants in Georgia,” she said. “But we don’t look at it in terms of, ‘Well, you’re not a member so we don’t want you to sign up.’ We want everyone to be involved in this program.”

If you or someone you know is struggling or in crisis, help is accessible and immediate. Reach out to the 988 Lifeline by calling or texting 988, or connect online at 988lifeline.org for compassionate, confidential support.

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