Suicide Prevention

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National Suicide Prevention Week #NSPW

In honor of National Suicide Prevention Week this week (Sept.8-14) we wanted to talk about something that is a much bigger problem in our industry than most people realize.

Just last year, Anthony Bourdain committed suicide. He often joked about his struggles with depressive episodes and substance abuse, which really was one of the reasons he was so relatable to his followers who were also chefs, restaurant employees, restaurateurs, and all the misfits in-between. Despite his openness and candid demeanor about his disease, people were shocked and at the news of his suicide.

This is usually the reaction when someone hears of a coworker taking their own life. Sometimes depression is so well hidden that you would never suspect that the person is struggling to live behind the mask of staying busy and pretending to be happy while at work, because in this industry, you don’t really have a choice or nobody gives a shit. The moment you complain about being tired or the amount of hours you’ve worked in the week, you’re automatically a bitch or somebody else has it worse. Sometimes, you just can’t win.

1 in 5 Americans…

Live with mental illness and only half of the people who struggle, get the help that they need. Leaving the other half of the mentally ill undiagnosed and alone. There are over 10 million Americans who work in the hospitality industry, and those 10 million people make up a much larger chunk of the mentally ill population than you would think. It’s become so normal that chefs in particular, actually think of themselves as a “special breed” of people because they put up with so much bullshit in their day to day lives. In fact, restaurant staff have the highest rate of substance abuse disorder than any other profession, SURPRISE. But, why? We can only guess but the main contributors are the; low wages, odd hours, long hours, little to no benefits, limited social and family time, kitchen abuse, being ridiculed, kitchen stress, and not to mention the need to constantly be working at a high capacity requiring us to be always “switched on” mentally.

Most of the people we encounter who are looking for work in restaurants describe themselves as a “people person”, and although this is a great attribute to have, what about taking care of yourself? When you’re constantly taking care of other people, your own well being falls to the wayside. You’re constantly checking on your guests “How is your steak?” “Can I get you anything else?” “What else can I do chef?” who is going to check on you and the rest of your team?

A restaurant owner in California has come up with a great plan to help with awareness of mental illness in his restaurants. He has created a program to have a “peer mentor” on at every shift. They wear a purple hand pin on their shirt and at any time if someone is feeling overwhelmed or needs to chat, they know that they have a safe outlet to open up about what they’re feeling.

What we can all take away from this is that we need to be more aware of our peers, coworkers and friends. Check in with your chefs, your servers, your dishwasher, and make sure that everyone has the option to step away for a moment when they’re feeling “cooked”. Comradery and support in the workplace are excellent ways to make us all feel supported and cared about. But just remember -

no job is ever worth your life or mental health.

If you or someone you know is suffering with suicidal thoughts call the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-8255 or contact the Crisis Text Line by texting HOME to 741741.

This one’s for you AB ❤

O.