Hope in a Cup

Artwork by Audrey Valbuena

Artwork by Audrey Valbuena

By Zoë Huettl

Walking down Fullerton, Sip of Hope seems like any, cute Lincoln Square coffee shop. The red-brown brick walls and trim black bar are the sleek staples of trendier coffee shops. But the moment you step into the shop, you are greeted by a looping, scrolling art installation by Matthew Hoffman, a local artist, that reads: it’s okay not to be okay. The letters stand off the brick and force a pause. All of a sudden, the coffee run becomes more complex and less alone.  

Hope for the Day is a suburban suicide prevention non-profit that works to start conversations about mental illness. They collaborated with Chicago-based Dark Matter Coffee to create Sip of Hope, a cafe deeply intertwined with Hope for the Day’s optimistic, destigmatizing message. The proceeds benefit suicide prevention, while the shop itself serves as a catalyst and conversation starter: Hope for the Day’s slogan “It’s okay not to be okay” covers their cups, the pamphlets destigmatizing mental illness that sit right next to the front door, and their flyers advertising educational workshops. These are just a few of the shop’s efforts that demonstrate how the coffee shop seeks to tuck their outreach into every part of the experience.

Image Courtesy of Sip of Hope

Image Courtesy of Sip of Hope

Hope for the Day is not a hotline or service, but they seek to meet people where they are. Their audience is those traditionally excluded from conversations about mental illness, namely men, and they hope to enter daily life through their collaborations with Chicago brewers and coffee-makers. Coffee shops fit well into their mission because they serve as both a part of a routine (getting coffee) and an interruption (breaking stigma). Sip of Hope counters the narrative, whether self- or societally-imposed, that those suffering cannot be helped or do not ‘deserve’ services or that mental illness is a personal defect or failure, and instead advocates for  the possibility of recovery. They keep from projecting a specific model of healing, but they center accessible educational resources and focus on crisis interruption. The philosophy behind Sip of Hope is to attempt to draw in people who feel they’ve exhausted their options, and offer them something else. A connection. A reason to keep pushing through for one more day. Instead of waiting for the retroactive activism that often follows a tragedy, they recognize that the societal conversation about mental illness needs to be instigated beforehand. They want to establish themselves as a center for hope, for healing and growth for those experiencing mental crises and reach them before it is too late .

Image Courtesy of Sip of Hope

Image Courtesy of Sip of Hope

So what does it feel like to be there? Basically it’s a coffee shop, with Dark Matter’s good coffee and locally-baked pastries. But their message is all over the walls, the cups, and looped in the cursive of artist Matthew Hoffman of the “you are beautiful” project. Sip of Hope brings freshness to the familiar habit of getting coffee and reminds those in the grips of stigma that they deserve help, too.