At any coffee house in the country, you can get a solid cup of coffee, do some work, catch up on your email or just chat with a friendly barista. But Sip of Hope will offer more than just a hit of caffeine. When it opens this spring, Chicago will be home to a new kind of coffee shop, one that is wholly dedicated to preventing suicide. A place where, as partner Jonny Boucher puts it, “If s**t hits the fan and life’s kicking you in the a**, you can come in. And you don’t have to worry about insurance.” (“New Logan Square Coffee Shop to Be 100% Dedicated to Preventing Suicide,” Chicagoist, October 23, 2017).
Boucher, CEO of Chicago nonprofit Hope for the Day, partnered with Dark Matter Coffee to bring Sip of Hope to life. Not only will 100 percent of the shop’s proceeds go to suicide prevention efforts, but it will also serve as outreach. Its motto will be: “It’s OK not to be OK.”
“While mental health issues are incredibly widespread, resources for them and outreach lag behind,” said Boucher.
Sip of Hope aims to fill that gap. In addition to traditional seating, there will be a clear resource area for people living with or touched by mental health challenges. Even the coffee cups will have information about mental health printed on them. The baristas will not only learn to pour a good cup of coffee; they’ll be trained and certified in Mental Health First Aid.
“Bartenders, baristas, barbers are the ones that get us through the day,” said Boucher. “It’s not a counseling session, but it’s a way to start a conversation.”
Mental Health First Aid teaches the language to use, the questions to ask and – most important – the confidence to ask them. The training takes the fear and hesitation out of starting conversations about mental health and substance use problems by improving understanding and providing an action plan that teaches people to safely and responsibly identify and address potential mental illness or substance use challenge.
So, when bartenders, baristas and barbers are trained in Mental Health First Aid, a simple question like “What’s wrong?” is transformed into “What’s happened?” to convey sensitive recognition of pain or distress and a level of sympathy rather than judgement.
If you want to support this innovative response to mental illness, you can make a donation to Sip of Hope to help sponsor their opening.