• Thu. Sep 22nd, 2022

Mental health initiative hopes to support hospitality industry workers

ByStephanie M. Akbar

Jul 6, 2022



Those who have worked in the hospitality industry say there are many mental health issues unique to the profession. PHOTO: ASAEL PEÑA/UNSPLASH

A team of mental health advocates launch the Hospitality Healing Project provide professional mental and physical health services to Calgary’s food and hospitality industry.

Co-founder Heesoo Cho says many of the people involved in developing the new program have extensive experience in the hospitality industry.

“We saw an opportunity to provide additional support, resources, [and] a service opportunity to those who work in space.

Cho’s own career in the hospitality industry helped him recognize the pressures of working in this space.

“From long hours to erratic income to just being constantly surrounded by substances, there may generally be a lack of awareness and awareness of how these pressures affect you from a health perspective. mental.”

Cho notes that incidents like the loss of a close friend in the restaurant industry to suicide in 2019 reinforced the importance of establishing the program.

“I know many others in space have a similar story,” Cho says.

The COVID-19 pandemic has also amplified many of the issues already affecting workers in the industry.

“The expectations that are placed on these professionals, you know, you’re expected to present yourself in a certain way with a certain energy, to make sure your guests have a positive experience,” Cho says. “Sometimes sacrificing how you actually feel or your mental bandwidth to do it.”

Cho co-founded the project because he felt there was a lack of awareness about how working in the hospitality industry could affect people. PHOTO: PROVIDED BY HEESOO CHO

Cho noticed that the initiative’s recent launch has garnered considerable interest from the hospitality industry, and he can’t wait to see which aspects resonate with people the most. The project works with mental health and chronic pain service SABI Mind to provide free educational sessions and preferential rates for professional services to anyone in Calgary’s hospitality industry.

“If it’s just a general discussion about mental health that has an additional positive impact on a person’s life, mission accomplished,” says Cho. “If it’s an individual going through therapy or counseling, then that’s also a positive impact that we hope to contribute to the lives of individuals.”

Matthew Drummond – who works in the hospitality industry and attended a meeting for the mental health initiative – thinks the project is needed.

“It provides a safe and accessible space for people working in hospitality where we can share stories and connect on a level where we can just express the same feelings,” says Drummond.

Drummond also says there are stressors that come with the company’s inconsistency, noting he’s been laid off three times since the pandemic began.

“The stress of not making money consistently, all of a sudden having to play by all these rules that a lot of us thought we shouldn’t be the ones to play by, really caused additional stress to the work environment and created a lot of hostility between customers and staff which was unfortunate but that was just the reality.

Drummond adds that there are mental health issues unique to the hospitality industry.

“I think you really have to put on a show every time you work. A lot of people I know, myself included, take care of a lot of personal stuff, but when you get to work you basically put on this mask and pretend everything’s fine, when most of the time it’s not is not the case.”

The initiative follows in the footsteps of non-profit organizations like No 9 to 5, which has successfully provided mental health training for the restaurant industry. Cho hopes this project will also have a positive impact on the industry and provide workers with the support they need.

“It’s about meeting the individual where they are, hence the variety of service options,” says Cho. “If nothing else, we hope to inspire some curiosity for individual mental health journeys, but also from an industry perspective.”

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