Local program helps shine light on mental health in service industry with special red lager

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. (KTXL) -- Twenty local restaurants served an exclusive craft beer Friday to support a mental health program benefitting workers in the food industry.

It’s called the I.G.Y.B. red lager, brewed by the Oak Park Brewing Company.

“Because we’re in hospitality. Is your coffee cold? Is your coffee hot? Is your drink cold? Did you like your steak? How’s your pasta?” restaurateur Patrick Mulvaney said. “We never think about ourselves.”

Local restaurant owners believe it’s that fast pace and high intensity of working in the food industry that is contributing to mental health issues among their employees.

“It’s fun and it’s active and we have a good time, but when you’re not feeling it, then it’s very stressful, very difficult and can be really anxious,” Scott’s Sacramento president Alan Irvine said.

A turning point came in 2019 after numerous people working in the Sacramento hospitality industry died by suicide or overdose.

“It got to be sort of an ‘enough is enough’ moment,” Hook & Ladder co-owner Kimio Bazett said.

That’s when Mulvaney and his wife knew they needed to make a change in their own restaurant, Mulvaney’s B&L.

“When you come into work and you go into the POS system to clock in, you grab a card -- a color corresponding to how you’re feeling that day -- and drop it in,” Mulvaney said. “And then when we do line up, where we talk about what’s going to happen that night. We take a temperature of the restaurant.”

The colored cards became a way to open up the conversation about mental health.

They’re part of a bigger program Mulvaney helped develop called I Got Your Back, which empowers employees to talk to one another if they’re going through a hard time.

“What we know is that it increases your awareness of availability of mental health services, it makes the employees feel safer to talk about mental health issues, and most important, it makes them more willing and open to getting help when they need it,” he told FOX40.

A handful of employees in each restaurant are trained to connect their peers to mental health resources, and they wear a purple hand pin to work every day.

“And when they have the purple hand on (during) their shift, that means you know that they’re safe. It’s a safe haven to talk to you because you have a problem,” Mulvaney said.

“We have over 10 maybe 12 people who actually have the purple pin on every day, so there’s someone there all the time,” Irvine said.

So far, 12 restaurants in Sacramento have adopted the I Got Your Back program but soon, every restaurant in California could have access to it, too.

Even businesses outside the service industry are considering it.

“Google wants to come on board and Unilever wants to come on board,” Mulvaney said.

Mulvaney believes the program is already saving lives.

“Last year, four people died by suicide at Christmas. This year, someone came into work and said ‘I’m not doing well,’” he said. “They were brave enough to ask for help and we — and knew we would help them and we knew how.”

For more information about the program, click or tap here.

Below is a list of restaurants pouring the I.G.Y.B. red lager:

  • Bottle & Barlow
  • Canon
  • de Vere's Irish Pub
  • Ella Dining Room & Bar
  • Fixins Soul Kitchen
  • Frank Fat's
  • House Kitchen and Bar
  • Kru
  • Mulvaney's B&L
  • Oak Park Brewing Co.
  • Selland's Market Cafe on H
  • The Golden Bear
  • The Kitchen
  • The Rind
  • Scott's Seafood on the River
  • The Shack
  • SacYard
  • Tank House BBQ
  • Broderick Roadhouse Midtown
  • Hook & Ladder Manufacturing Co.

To get help, call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). There is also a crisis text line. For crisis support in Spanish, call 1-888-628-9454.

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