The past few years have brought many to the ledge physically and emotionally. Losing a job can mean losing purpose, routine, and a community that supports you.

That can result in losing all hope for life.

Suicides, commonly referred to as deaths of despair, are often linked to those struggling with drug and alcohol abuse. Since the restaurant and hospitality industry has some of the highest rates of substance abuse, the risk factor for suicide is that much higher.

We have already experienced a devastating loss – a death of despair – in our Big Table community this year. Since it is top of mind, we wanted to share tools and resources to help in this area.

Our hope is that these tools land in the hands of those that can help offer a glimmer of hope to anyone who might need it during their dark time.


We met up with Sabrina Votava, president of FailSafe for Life, to hear her thoughts about how we can all proactively make a difference in the area of suicide awareness and prevention. She offers practical answers to the following questions in this short 8-minute video:

What should we look for?

What can we practically do if we think someone is suicidal? And why is it ok to ask if they have thought about hurting themselves?

What can we do to help those we have lost contact with…or who might be isolated and alone?


Here are some signs that could indicate some is at risk of suicide.

Signs of Suicide Risk


Check out this simple, anonymous way to get a pulse on the emotional health of your team. By just picking a color, any color, your employees and co-workers can share how they are feeling and thereby opening a window of opportunity to listen and offer help.

Download this free tool you can use to quickly create a mental health check-in process in your workplace.



FailSafe for Life offers education and community events for suicide prevention all year long.

FailSafe for Life knows that strength not only lies in our words, but in our actions as well. We have set out on a mission to end suicide in Spokane and will not quit until our job is complete. Founded in 2016, FailSafe for Life inspires action through education, instilling hope, and connecting communities. We’re driven by a firm belief in the power of understanding, and the knowledge that the pain that surrounds suicide can be treated.

Learn more about upcoming virtual and in-person classes and the additional resources FailSafe for Life offers by visiting: www.failsafeforlife.org

Ben’s Friends is the food and beverage industry support group offering hope, fellowship, and a path forward to professionals who struggle with substance abuse and addiction.

Founded in honor of Ben Murray, a lifelong chef who took his own life after struggling with alcoholism for years, Ben’s Friends exists to provide a safe haven and an anonymous, judgment-free forum for workers in an industry that has one of the highest rates of substance abuse in the country.

Learn more about the Ben’s Friends organization by visiting: https://www.bensfriendshope.com/

Not 9 to 5 is a non-profit organization empowering hospitality, food and beverage service workers by mobilizing education and support for mental health and substance use. Not 9 to 5 promotes harm reduction practices and helps to connect the hospitality workforce to mental wellness resources.

Not 9 to 5 is beta testing a new course called Primary Concerns to educate and train you in mental health and substance use support skills so that you know how to identify, understand and respond to crisis situations.

Learn more about Not 9 to 5 by visiting: https://www.not9to5.org/

I Got Your Back isn’t an organization. It’s a promise. It’s a promise to work together to support our peers and reduce the stigma that surrounds mental health and related issues.

Grief inspired the IGYB program after a sudden rash of suicides and overdoses in the restaurant industry hit Sacramento hard in late 2018 and early 2019.

IGYB is converting grief and sadness into courage and optimism and we hope to see it spread from restaurant to restaurant, city to city and industry to industry. Learn more about I Got Your Back by visiting: https://igotyourback.info/

We know the restaurant & bar industry. We know the exhausting hours and the heated environment. We know you’re givers, and at times, you give too much. We know self-care isn’t always top of mind. We know living with mental health & wellness issues is hard. We know that asking for help is sometimes harder. We know support is necessary. Come be supported. Come be heard.

Learn more about HEARD by visiting: https://www.iheardyou.org/


The US food and beverage service industry ranks in the top three worst workplaces for mental health, after manufacturing and retail. (Hellebuyck et al.)

According to the American Hotel Lodging Association (AHLA), at the peak of the pandemic 7.5 million hospitality and leisure jobs in the U.S. were lost, and 4 out of 10 hotel employees are still not working. The National Restaurant Association (NRA) reports as much damage on the restaurant front with 8 million losing their jobs initially. The unemployment rate across the industry is still 38% compared to national average of 10.2%.

The American restaurant industry is the highest among nineteen industries for illicit drug use and third highest for heavy alcohol consumption (Restaurant Workers and Addition – Statistics, Recovery & Treatment Options).


Put these numbers in your phone so you are ready if a situation arises:

National Suicide Lifeline (available 24/7)

Call 1-800-273-TALK (8255)

Text HOPE to 741-741

If someone you know is struggling, ask them if you can add these numbers in their phone, too. You might not be there at that critical moment, but their phone most likely will be.


If someone you know in the restaurant or hospitality industry is in crisis and needs assistance at this time, fill out a referral at https://bigtable.org/refer/ and we’d be happy to explore the best care options for them.