After the shocking death of Anthony Bourdain this past summer, the restaurant and hospitality industry has been taking a hard look at their overall mental health and how they better equip those within the industry to open up about their mental well-being.
Restaurants often offer a place for any individual to find a place and pursue a career, generally regardless of their background. They may be inadvertently attracting those who have ongoing mental health or substance abuse problems, but more often than not, the work environment fosters them.
Chefs, waiters and other integral pieces to the hospitality team are often worked to their limit and then expected to work more. They are supposed to exhibit a persona that oozes a macho, and fierce attitude regardless of the cruelty of the environment around them. Especially for those in a managerial position, everyone around them seems to feed off of their energy and no one wants to be perceived as weak or unhappy.
These factors may be part of the epidemic in this industry that leads to high rates of suicide and substance abuse. And sadly, it has been rarely talked about in public sectors before Anthony Bourdain’s death. Drug abuse, alcoholism, as well as other forms of domestic violence, have become a routine and almost expected aspect of working in restaurants and other hospitality professions.
There are so many forward facing aspects of this industry that can cause and perpetuate anxiety, heightened stress, and depression. Working incredibly hard to prepare delicious dishes and then be met with bad reviews of public and outspoken sites, is just one example of what chefs deal with on a daily.
Over the past six months, more and more chefs have been starting to open up about the mental health strains that they experience on a daily basis and how they can empower each other to be healthy. Even more, as a new wave of young entrepreneurs hit the scenes, they have the opportunity to remain open about mental illness and how they can empower those around them. They have the chance to reverse the stigma that is held against those who struggle with mental illnesses in the hospitality realm.
There are also resources for chefs who need a place to talk openly about their mental health and connect with others who understand and want what is best for one another. Chefswithissues.com is an example of a platform where chefs struggling with depression can come together and support one another. There are also resources such as Mental Health America and support groups like Ben’s Friends in the Carolinas that are available.
Those in the hospitality industry should not be held to an impossible standard of mental strength in an environment where the work is brutal, long and not always rewarding. Those in this industry should stand together to empower one another to be open and aware of the mental health issues that so often run rampant in restaurants.
Herrick Lipton is the CEO of New Horizon Counseling Center in New York and is also an advocate for mental health. For more information about Herrick or to get in touch with New Horizon Counseling Center for resources, please visit nhcc.usor call 718-845-2620.