As we begin the road to reopening and living with new rules of engagement, our mental health is taking a front seat. Celebrations are in full swing with family and friends, which is an exciting time in the hospitality industry but also stressful and busy. And so it is really important that we look after ourselves as well as our colleagues.

Australia’s fifth largest employer is the accommodation and food services industry and therefore the mental health of its employees is paramount. It has become even more important over the past couple of years with the added pressures of the COVID pandemic demanding that the industry restructure and re-imagine their services, let go and then re-employ staff, and also comply with added OH&S.

Restaurant and cafe kitchens are often pressure cookers and not just for the food prepared. They are naturally stressful places with the everyday rush and demands that are placed on the chefs, their support staff, as well as front of house employees and owners too. Sometimes this can create toxic environments - where striving for perfection is key and mistakes are not tolerated lightly - along with coping mechanisms like substance abuse - combine to create devastating effects on employees’ mental health.

A recent R U OK? Survey found that 80 per cent of hospitality workers were concerned about their mental health.

Hostile behaviour, explosive tempers and aggression have become ‘glamourised’ or ‘normalised’ in some instances. Which means employees can be coping with increased stress, anxiety, depression, panic attacks and an overall mental fatigue.

Since COVID, even employees that have never had mental health issues, are finding they are now having to cope with loneliness, health anxiety and living and working in a ‘new normal’.

But there is a light at the end - today more than ever there are places to reach out for help and some of these are hospitality worker specific - having been founded by chefs, who themselves have had issues coping with stress, depression, substance abuse, the loss of a colleague to suicide or a combination of factors. They recognised the need for easily accessible help and have decided to do something about it.

Read on to learn more about just a few of these great initiatives - Hospo for Life, We Are Fair Kitchens, The White Jacket Effect and Food For Thought. Let’s work together to strengthen this great industry.

Hospo for Life

Sydney chef Liam Crawley launched Hospo for Life after suffering the loss of several colleagues to suicide in the last decade. Hospo for Life provides members of the hospitality industry easy access to psychologists and mental health support services 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. They want create a stronger community by encouraging people to reach out, to promote healthy relationships and to really connect with each other.

As stated on hospoforlife.com.au

“Hospo for Life provides psychological support services to the hospitality industry which are facilitated by Altius Group. These services can be accessed over the phone and are available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week to initiate interactions with qualified psychologists. Hospo for Life provides a kind and compassionate atmosphere where hospitality industry employees and their families feel valued and respected.”

We Are Fair Kitchens

#FairKitchens is a movement founded in 2018 which has attracted the support of chefs, businesses and experts across the world. It is based on creating a more resilient, sustainable hospitality industry, by showing that a healthier workplace culture creates a healthier, more successful business. It strives to make the workplace fairer, more inclusive and happier - so that you keep and attract the best
talent and value their wellbeing.

The #FairKitchens Code is the starting point of creating a healthy kitchen culture based on open communication, passion, support and teamwork. Let’s work as TEAMS. Let’s change the industry.

T - TALK OPENLY about how you are all feeling.
E - EXCITE PASSION and remind yourself and others why you love what you do.
A - ACT AS ONE to support each other and stay connected.
M - MAKE TIME to do something you always wanted to do for yourself and for your community.
S - SAY ‘GOOD JOB’ for the small things.

The White Jacket Effect

Founded by Chef Amber Kaba who realised the hospitality industry needed help, just like she did. Amber recognised the damaging issues of mental health are born from a culture that accepts negative vices and toxic relationships and so The White Jacket Effect was imagined.

As stated on whitejacketeffect.com.au

“The White Jacket Effect is committed to improving the culture and mindset of the hospitality industry by empowering individuals to create foundations of ongoing and lasting power. We give you the power to make better choices and be rewarded with better results.”

Food For Thought

Mal Meiers, founder of Food for Thought, is also now an ambassador for R U OK? and LifeLine.

Mal knows personally the pressures of being a chef and suffering from anxiety, depression, substance abuse and hitting rock bottom. With encouragement from a friend he reached out for help. Mal wanted to help others, so he created Food For Thought - charity dinners which promote mental health, encourage people to speak up and for management to listen. “Since 2014, the annual Food for Thought charity dinners have founded a unique collaboration of emerging and talented hospitality professionals to create exceptional dinners for a higher cause.”

National Support Services
Lifeline - 13 11 14
Kids Helpline - 1800 551 800
MensLine Australia - 1300 789 978
Suicide Call Back Service - 1300 659 467
Beyond Blue - 1300 22 46 36
Headspace - 1800 650 890
QLife - 1800 184 527