The importance of mental health within the hospitality industry

Approximately 1 in 4 people will experience a mental health problem in the UK. Anxiety disorder is the most common form of mental in the UK followed quickly by depression. Mental health problems are one of the biggest killers in the UK alongside cancer and heart disease. There is a lot of stigma around mental health and the general attitude that females are most susceptible to developing a mental health issue. There is a general stigma that if you don’t look ill then you aren’t ill. Just because you cannot see someone illness, doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist and they aren’t suffering. There are strong links between physical and mental health problems. Research has found that 30% of people with a long-term physical health problem also have a mental health problem and 46% of people with a mental health problem also had a long-term physical health problem.

The hospitality industry, alongside the health service, is one of the most stressful environments to work in. Long shifts and late nights often take chefs away from the normality of family life and socializing. Working in a kitchen and front of house means working unsociable hours, often late at night. It has been widely debated on whether being a chef is actually bad for your mental health or not. In a recent survey, more than half of the chefs asked said they took some form of medication or alcohol during a shift.

I have worked in busy hotels and can understand fully the level of stress some chefs go through. Often being asked to do more than they are capable of, having to work longer hours than they were being paid for. It is very easy for a chef to fall into a rut, the bar is only on the other side of the door, and all your friends are out. It slowly but surely becomes a habit for chefs, it starts as a few drinks here and there and quickly escalates into a problem. By no means am I saying this happens to all chefs but this is becoming a problem in our industry.

Balancing family life along with work can also be a contributing factor to mental health issues. In general, many parents often feel guilt when prioritizing work over their children. It can be difficult to spend time with your children, leaving before they are up for school and not getting home until after they are in bed. Days off are to be cherished and spent with loved ones, whether you have children or not. It can often be extremely hard for those single parents as well having to find the time to work and support their children whilst wanting to spend time with them.

What can we do to fight against mental health?

It has been suggested that finding a hobby, alongside seeking medical attention, is one of the most successful ways of battling mental health. Whether that hobby is the gym or a simple puzzle after a shift, something to take your mind elsewhere after a long day. A balanced diet is also a contributing factor to better health, physically and mentally. We all know what it is like working in the kitchen, a few chips here or some left overs at the end of the night. It can often be difficult to find the time to eat when you are so busy, working as a waitress I often found myself eating a full meal at 1am after a shift and not being able to sleep for a while after it. You need to be able to find the balance.

Many people suffering with mental health issues are often too embarrassed to visit their GP or talk to a relative or friend. Venting out to someone is one of the most powerful ways of getting it all out and can often make you feel relieved and take a weight off your shoulders. In this industry we need to start talking and start asking people if they are okay. Simply asking someone can make all the difference. If you or someone you know is suffering from mental health issues then encourage them or yourself to speak out!

When ‘I’ is replaced with ‘We’. Illness’ becomes ‘Wellness’.

Jade Porteous

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