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Calm through coffee | 'The act of breaking the stigma is everybody's job'

Waller's Coffee Shop serves up a subtle but powerful stance on destigmatizing mental health.

DECATUR, Ga. — The nondescript exterior shows on the outside, as much as the comfortable environment shows inside, that Waller's Coffee Shop in Decatur is about way more than coffee.

And on this particular day, a teacher is holding a ukelele class inside the shop.

"Tova, you good with the island strum?" he asks as he pauses his strumming for a moment. 

The teacher continues strumming, guiding his charges along. 

"Down, down, up," the teacher said before he paused a moment to shake one tired hand. "Okay, shake it out, take a breath."

Lattes and lyrics flow with equal froth. 

Credit: WXIA

The teacher's charges, an elderly couple, concentrating intently on the music before them. 

"I have a dream," the teacher sings as the three continue to strum. "I hope will come true. You're here with me, and I'm here with you."

"Tuesday's we've got the uke-jam sing-along," said the man at the counter -- Jason Waller. "Eclectic."

Waller has filled his walls with slogans and signs -- including some that stand out, while they blend in.

"The act of breaking the stigma attached to mental health is everybody's job,' Waller said. "To shine a light on that -- to be able to say, 'It's okay to be broken, because we all are.'"

Before he opened Waller's, Jason's kitchen experience was confined to his own kitchen.

Credit: WXIA

But his experience with depression had extended to his childhood.

"Fifth grade, sixth grade -- I can remember sitting in bed thinking, 'What if? What if?' And replacing it with something horrible," he said.

Jason did not want to talk about it.

He grew up and became a musician. But sadness persisted. Low points sunk even lower.

"My brain would just latch onto sad things. Hopelessness -- and it wouldn't let go," Jason said. "I wrote a song about drifting into traffic -- oncoming traffic. And that was a huge red flag for me. Like, 'Oh! Something's wrong with you, Jason. Go seek help!'"

Help has come. 

Jason's doctor prescribed anti-depressants that Jason takes daily. A clear mind has brought a new mission.

Waller's Coffee Shop opened one year ago.

Credit: WXIA

And on Saturday mornings, Waller's hosts groups and meetings related to mental health.

But mostly its efforts are unspoken.

"It has to be in our everyday language or it's not gonna get better," Jason said. "The more you talk about mental health issues, the less scary they become and the more manageable they become -- and it might give somebody a little bit of courage to speak up and say, 'This is going on with me.'"

At home, Jason makes cobblers with his children. 

"I don't really care about looking weak. It's just there's so much pain attached to not being here for my kids; letting my wife down -- how close I was to letting them down," he said. "I have been working every day. Nothing better than to move in the opposite direction."

Credit: WXIA

So every day, until 10 p.m., Waller's Coffee Shop serves coffee, and a cavalcade of community -- on the inside.

"It comes in waves, for days and days," Jason sings on the stage at Waller's. "Hope you find yours."

And the outside.

Waller's Coffee Shop
240 DeKalb Industrial Way
Decatur, GA 30333

Jason recommended some helpful smartphone apps for various mental health needs.

Apps for Addiction

Sober Grid - (Android, iOS) - Recovery social network, notification to let people know you're in danger of relapse

Pear reSET - (Android, iOS) - requires a prescription - use with a clinician for 12-week programming

SoberTool - (Android, iOS) - Alcohol addiction personalized relapse prevention

Nomo - (Android, iOS) - Free sobriety tracker, refocusing games, reward chips

Recovery Box - (iOS only) - Free; Customized goals, activity log, accountability partner access

Apps for Mental Health

Sanvello (previously Pacifica) - (Android, iOS) - Free; Anxiety and stress toolkit

nOCD - (Android, iOS) - Free; Exposure response prevention, access to clinical guidance

Talkspace - (Android, iOS) - Varied fee plans; Online licensed tools

MoodTools - (Android, iOS) - Free; Cognitive behavioral therapy, suicide prevention

PTSD Coach - (Android, iOS) - Free; Customizable tools, access to support, self-assessment

MY3 - (Android, iOS) - Free; Depression help, suicide prevention/lifelines

Recovery Record - (Android, iOS) - Free; Eating disorder recovery, progress tracker, self-assessment

MindShift CBT (previously Mind Shift) - (Android, iOS) - Free; Anxiety cognitive-behavioral therapy made for teens

7 Cups - (Android, iOS) - Free; Online emotional support with trained listeners

Apps to Re-Center

Moodpath - (Android, iOS) - Free; Daily screening tool, increased self-awareness

Headspace - (Android, iOS) - Free; Guided Mindfulness meditation

Self Help for Anxiety Management - (Android, iOS) - Free; 24-hour anxiety toolkit, self-help skills, online community

What's Up - (Android, iOS) - Free; Recognize counterproductive thoughts, self-assessment tools

Calm - (Android, iOS) - Free; 4 key areas of meditation

SuperBetter - (Android, iOS) - Free; Resilience games, mood improvement


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