‘So Let’s Talk’ – mental health issues in the hospitality industry

With the success of Philip Barantini’s Boiling Point, mental health and addiction in the hospitality industry has been at the forefront of many people’s minds.

Starring Stephen Graham, the short is loosely based on Barantini’s time as a chef and covers issues such as self-harm and addiction. “So Let’s Talk” is a non-profit platform that provides education, training and activities on all aspects of mental, physical and financial health within the hospitality industry.

Founder Patrick Howley worked in the industry for 16 years, starting collecting glass at the age of 13. But from a “family of coaches” Patrick qualified in NLP [Neuro-Linguistic Programming] Practitioner at 17 years old.

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He told ECHO: “To be honest it was like two worlds apart, but the hospitality work skills and that coaching aspect made me a general manager at 20. If I’m all Quite honestly, I had no right to be in this position at that age.

“I was given keys, a team of 20, planning sales etc. and with that came some really unhealthy and destructive habits. My recreational drug use, at such a young age, was at its worst. heck, and I had a really unhealthy relationship with alcohol.

“The most disruptive thing about my life, I would say, is that I viewed the hospitality industry as a way of life, not a job. If I wasn’t at work serving food and drink, I’d be out shopping for food, drink and medicine – all the while surrounding myself with other hospitality professionals of the same cycle.”

Raised in Burnley, he spent 10 years of his life traveling around the UK and working in the hospitality industry. He said: “I was then given the opportunity to be a manager at a pop-up bar in Manchester one Christmas – then they gave me about four or five AFDs back to back. Now I don’t know that many know what that means.It’s a hospitality term for All F****** Day.

“So it was four or five 14-hour shifts in a row. Instead of going home when I was done, I did my normal routine which was – taking a lot of drugs and drinking way too much alcohol I showed up to work the next day as if nothing had happened.

“No one even acknowledged that I wasn’t composed, because I was performing so well. That’s, unfortunately, a narrative for a lot of hospitality professionals right now.”

He added: “After those four or five days I was in a darker phase of my life and I was sitting in mum’s guest room. For the first time in my life I had serious suicidal ideation, the only option I could see in my life at the time, was for me not to be here.”

Help lines and support groups

The following are helplines and support networks people can talk to, primarily listed on the NHS Choices website

  • Samaritans (116 123) operates a 24 hour service available every day of the year. If you prefer to write how you feel or are worried about being overheard on the phone, you can email Samaritans at [email protected]
  • CALM Campaign Against Living Miserably (0800 58 58 58) is a leading movement against suicide. It runs a UK helpline and online chat from 5pm to midnight 365 days a year for anyone who has hit a wall for whatever reason, needs to talk or find information and help.
  • PANDAS (0808 1961 776) run a free helpline and offer a support service for people who may be suffering from perinatal mental illness, including prenatal (antenatal) and postnatal depression, as well as support for their family or their network.
  • Childline (0800 1111) operates a helpline for children and young people in the UK. Calls are free and the number will not appear on your phone bill.
  • PAPYRUS (0800 068 41 41) is an association supporting suicidal adolescents and young adults.
  • Mind (0300 123 3393) is a charity that provides advice and support to empower anyone with a mental health problem. They campaign to improve services, raise awareness and promote understanding.
  • Students Against Depression is a website for students who are depressed, in a low mood, or have suicidal thoughts.
  • Bullying UK is a website for children and adults who are victims of bullying.
  • Amparo provides emotional and practical support to anyone affected by suicide. This includes dealing with police and coroners; assist with media requests; prepare for and attend an investigation and assist in accessing other appropriate local support services. Call 0330 088 9255 or visit www.amparo.org.uk for details.

  • Hub of Hope is the UK’s most comprehensive national mental health support database. Download the free app, visit hubofhope.co.uk or text HOPE to 85258 to find relevant services near you.
  • Youth Advisory Service – Provides mental health and emotional wellbeing services to children, young people and families in Liverpool. Phone. 0151 707 1025 email: [email protected]
  • Paul’s Place – offers free advice and group sessions for anyone living on Merseyside who has lost a family member or friend to suicide. Tel: 0151 226 0696 or email: [email protected]
  • The Martin Gallier Project – provides in-person support for people contemplating suicide and their families. Opening hours 9.30am-4.30pm, 7 days a week. Tel: 0151 644 0294 email: [email protected]

  • James’ Place – supports men over the age of 18 going through a suicidal crisis by providing quick access to therapy and support. Call 0151 303 5757 Monday to Friday 9.30am to 5.30pm or visit https://www.jamesplace.org.uk/

He told ECHO: “I recognized the thought processes, spoke with my mum and realized I had to leave the industry. I checked my salary expenses and found out that I had spent about 65% of my salary on drugs and alcohol alone this year.

“Having to leave the industry was very difficult, that’s all I had done for 16 years. I went to an AA meeting, I realized it was an unhealthy relationship I had with it, not an addiction, but i decided to go sober and change my lifestyle around.

“I got really angry after that, I had been doing this to myself for over 10 years, with no possibility of help within the industry. It’s just not accessible enough.

“I messaged in January 2020 and said I wanted to work on prevention, not therapy once they run out. We need to look at any destructive operational structures we might have.”

The post ‘blew up’ on social media and after signing it with ‘So Let’s Talk’ a friend sent a logo with that name shortly afterwards and told Patrick ‘that was a great name for a girl. business”. Since then, he has sat down with many people and discussed how they can change the culture, which comes down to “education”.

The 31-year-old said: “Having people come in and talk about things like sleep or nutrition who have never worked in the industry wouldn’t resonate with [industry workers] fully. So, over the past two years, we’ve created 13 sessions covering physical, mental and financial health, working with experts in the fields of sleep, nutrition and mental health – we then took this information and made them relevant to the industry.

“We deliver from a place of lived experience. That’s where we can build a relationship because we’ve all been industry professionals before.”

Patrick recently teamed up with local chef Eddie Kilty for his communal dinner party which took place inside the City of Liverpool College. Organized by An Hour With An Indie Podcast, the event raised over £2,000 in support of So Let’s Talk, which will be used to provide free mental health-based courses for hospitality industry professionals in Liverpool .

Following the success of the inaugural collective dinner, Eddie managed to organize another evening which will take place on June 7th. The evening raised awareness of mental health in the industry while providing students with the opportunity to work with professionals in their field of study.

He added: “The money raised from Eddie’s communal dinner will be used to fund sessions specifically for professionals in the hospitality industry in Liverpool. Hopefully we can also run sessions with college students, they will be free to attend due to the money raised from the event, we are only working on the logistics at the moment.”

Eddie Kilty Owner of Kilty and Co

Eddie Kilty has invited So Let’s Talk to the event so he can raise money for a cause that will see changes to issues that “many of us have seen or encountered in the hospitality industry”. Having witnessed first hand the impact mental health can have on workers in the sector, he knows there is a ‘desperate need’ for companies to take more action when it comes to addressing the needs of their workers face problems such as depression and anxiety, as well as drug and alcohol abuse.

He told ECHO: “I’ve worked with many chefs who have suffered from mental health issues, depression, anxiety etc. Mostly alcohol and drugs, and we’ve had to help those people along the way, and get them the support they need.

“I just feel like the sense of community seemed, to me anyway, to be lacking. The idea behind the collective dinner was to bring that sense of community back into the industry and bring together an array of accomplished chefs in the city, to show our united strength.

“We’re so busy, and it’s one of the biggest industries in the UK. But because of that, people are afraid to make their voices heard, or if there’s something wrong , they hesitate instead of opening up about it.”

He added: “Even though it’s a very large area to work in, it gets busy, it can also be quite lonely. Whether you’re working in the kitchen or in front of the house, sometimes you have feel like you can work alone.”

The next communal dinner will raise funds for The Papercup Project, which provides crucial training and support for homeless people, and will take place on June 7 at the Academy restaurant at the City of Liverpool College. Tickets are available on the An Hour With An Indie website.

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