New Georgia mental health awareness program serving up education, resources in restaurants and bars

Next time you eat at your favorite restaurant, you might see a server or bartender wearing a pin or hat that says “86 the stigma.”

Channel 2′s Lori Wilson was at Rays on the River in Sandy Springs to learn about a new program aimed at removing the stigma surrounding mental health issues and substance abuse.

At Rays on the River, employees started the day off Thursday getting ready for guests, and also pulling out t-shirts and hats branded with the slogan.

“It’s a term we use in the restaurant business when we run out of something, we don’t have it anymore, we need to get rid of it,” Bryson Rudd, Assistant General Manager at Rays on the River, told Channel 2 Action News.

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Rudd makes sure his employees get help when they’re struggling, and it’s personal for him.

He’s dealt with drug-resistant depression and attention deficit hyperactive disorder, and he knows how stressful the restaurant industry can be.

“It’s very challenging, it can be very taxing...at any drop of the hat, you can be yelled at for something that’s not even your fault,” Rudd said.

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“Restaurant workers are at an increased risk for suicide and overdose deaths from substance use,” Dawn Peel, a crisis coordinator for the Department of Behavioral Health and Developmental Disabilities said.

She said the “86 the stigma” campaign is part of a larger effort to spread awareness of the 988 Lifeline, a mental health crisis hotline for Americans in need.

Using the number, you can call, text or chat to get confidential support when experiencing a mental health crisis.

Peel said that through the new campaign, not only do restaurant staff learn about resources nd programs available, but their patrons are also taught about 988.

Rudd said he hopes an employee button, bracelet, or even a poster in his restaurant, could help save a life.

“Every day presents an opportunity to change someone’s life. Are you going to take that opportunity today?” Rudd asked.

“86 the stigma” is part of an initiative by the Georgia Restaurant Association, the Giving Kitchen and the DBHDD. If you or someone you know is struggling with substance abuse or thoughts of suicide, please call 988.

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