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Mental ill-health in hospitality

A chef working in the kitchen taken from iHASCO's online Food Safety training course

As many as two thirds of people say they’ve experienced a mental health problem and despite increasing awareness of this issue it can still be overlooked. Mental health issues have been reported in many industry sectors from education to construction and if you work in the hospitality industry research would suggest it is no different.

Working in hospitality often means long hours and unsociable shifts. Due to the nature of the role it can be stressful and pressured, yet there is a tendency among workers to keep any mental health issues to themselves and face these pressures alone. With the hospitality industry still awaiting restrictions to fully lift from the pandemic, it is vitally important that there is a forward plan for supporting employee mental health to prevent the fallout from COVID adding to the existing pressures for those in the industry.

The research into mental health

The HSE reports that stress, depression or anxiety accounted for 51% of all work-related ill health cases and 55% of all working days lost due to ill health (2019/20). Therefore it makes sense that businesses face the reality of mental health and talk openly about it. Sadly, those that suffer in silence can eventually reach a breakdown point or worse. 

More specifically, research from The Royal Society for Public Health (RSPH) found that ‘One in five hospitality workers suffer from work-related severe mental health issues’. 84% of those working in hospitality attributed feeling increased stress as a direct result of their job. These stats illustrate that hospitality is an industry facing severe concerns over the state of their worker’s mental health and as more renowned chefs in the industry open up about their own mental health issues and experiences it can go towards addressing this issue. 

Nestlé conducted a survey which found that 8 in 10 chefs have experienced poor mental health at some point during their career and 48% believe there is not enough being done to support their mental health and wellbeing in the workplace. Top contributions to stress in their role included staff shortages, lack of time and limited budgets. Furthermore, many kitchen areas do not have windows so the lack of natural light can negatively affect a person's wellbeing. Those working in hospitality are also prone to addictions, such as alcohol, as a way to deal with the stress of their day to day role.

A professional kitchen is a demanding environment, and thrives on adrenalin and busy services. In part, this is the appeal of choosing a career in hospitality yet also the contributing factor to developing mental health and wellbeing issues. A poor work-life balance, long hours at low pay and high tensions (such as shouting) in the kitchen are just some contributing factors to everyday stress for those in the hospitality industry.

What can be done? 

Whilst those that work in hospitality often enjoy the environment, the ability to be creative and the interaction with others, there appears to be an acceptance that the challenges the role can bring are a normal part of the job. Thankfully more and more businesses are recognising the link between a good working environment and happier staff. Measures introduced have included installing open kitchens to encourage a more harmonious work environment, paid overtime and openly discussing mental health issues in the kitchen. 

Pilot Light, founded by chefs Andrew Clarke and Doug Sanham in 2016, aims to combat mental health stigma in the hospitality industry and provide support to those suffering with issues such as depression. 

Pilot light is a campaign focused on changing the way people think and act about mental health through addressing the industry specific contexts and environments, found in professional kitchens and the broader hospitality sector.

Hospitality Action, Mind and Samaritans can also provide support for those struggling with mental health issues so no one needs to suffer alone. 

There is still a long way to go and more can be done to improve mental health and wellbeing of those working in hospitality but it is a start and if everybody keeps talking about it it cannot be ignored.

Mental health awareness training

It’s now widely accepted that education and training will provide more awareness of mental health issues and businesses who look out for the mental wellbeing of their employees are likely to have a happier workforce who feel supported. For every £1 invested into employee wellbeing, employers can see up to £4.20 in return! 

iHASCO provides mental health awareness training for all levels of staff, to help businesses understand how to identify and deal with mental ill-health and stress in the workplace. Request a free trial today.

iHASCO's Mental Health Awareness Training