SF restaurateur dies after financial struggles deepened his depression during pandemic

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- The financial struggle of running a restaurant proved to be too much for one San Francisco man.

He ended his life last month, and today, his wife spoke to ABC7 News reporter Luz Pena about the hardship.

We know this report may be upsetting, but it is important to know, you are not alone.

TAKE ACTION: Get help with mental health issues

AJ Sanchez was known for his smile, welcoming spirit and his love for food.

"A loving, caring person someone who wanted to bring something unique to the wharf," said his wife, Amanda Orloff.

Amanda Orloff confirmed the local restaurateur died by suicide on July 24. Their pizza restaurants and wine bar have been struggling during the coronavirus pandemic and his depression deepened.

"I'm still struggling through this too. I guess you never know what's going to happen at the end of this. My motto has been to continue and do the best I can," said Orloff.

Carmel Pizza had seen a 90-percent decrease in revenue during this pandemic. This is a relatable financial struggle that many restaurant owners are also trying to cope with.

"Many of us are used to running our own businesses and taking care of our employees and taking care of family financially, as well as emotionally and we are put in a place that we are struggling to meet those obligations," said Laurie Thomas, Executive Director of Golden Gate Restaurant Association.

The Golden Gate Restaurant Association is seeing firsthand the effects of the financial pressures this pandemic has had on its restaurant owners. Thomas says they are holding mental health webinars.

"Please reach out to me, to anybody if you need to talk. You are not going through this for any fault of your own," said Thomas.

VIDEO: 'A Bay Area Conversation:' Virtual town hall addressing COVID-19 impact on mental health
EMBED More News Videos

Watch ABC7's one-hour virtual town hall, "Your Mental Health: A Bay Area Conversation," with mental health experts, providing real solutions to help you make each day better.

In San Francisco, Dr. Christopher Colwell is seeing a concerning increase of deaths by suicide or attempts come into the ER during this pandemic.

"Typically we might see between 5-10 in July of last year, between 5-10 that were expressing severe depression, and now the numbers are closer to 15-20 in terms of everyday in the emergency department," said Dr. Christopher Colwell, Chief of ER at Zuckerberg SF General Hospital & Trauma Center.

Dr. Colwell is urging families to be aware of signs of depression or isolation, "please take those comments seriously and look for changes in your loved ones. Nobody knows regular behavior better than your close friends."

Amanda Orloff is working towards continuing AJ's legacy by building an outdoor eating area to reopen this weekend.

"I think that if he is looking down he would be very proud of the start of it. It's not finished. It's for him," said Orloff.

If you or someone you know needs help, please call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255. It is free and confidential.

If you have a question or comment about the coronavirus pandemic, submit yours via the form below or here.
Get the latest news, information and videos about the novel coronavirus pandemic here

Copyright © 2022 KGO-TV. All Rights Reserved.