Listening, engaging, empathising: steps to reducing suicide in the hospitality industry

I want to talk about suicide. Specifically, I want to open a debate on how to help hospitality workers reaching the point of despair by offering practical and emotional support; and by propagating a culture across the industry in which people are able to talk about their darkest thoughts and, crucially, are listened to and spoken to sensitively and appropriately.

It’s been heartening to hear the industry talk more about mental health issues over the past few months. At HA, we’ve played our part. We were proud, for example, to work with The Caterer on their recent mental health awareness themed issue.

But, as an industry, we’re still losing far too many precious lives to suicide.

We live in a hectic and overwhelming world. For some people, this can spark feelings of helplessness, hopelessness and depression; and these in turn can set off a downward spiral of negative thinking.

People contemplate suicide for many reasons. According to the Samaritans, it’s often caused by an accumulation of difficulties that leave people feeling there is no way out. The kinds of difficulties that might increase the risk of suicide include relationship breakdown, painful or disabling illness, bereavement, bullying, loneliness and financial difficulties.

People with conditions such as severe depression, bipolar disorder and schizophrenia can be particularly vulnerable. There is also a very high correlation between suicide and substance abuse.

Add the particular stresses hospitality people encounter – pressure, adrenaline peaks and crashes, long hours – and you have a dangerous cocktail.

According to research from mental health charity, Mind, suicide rates are higher in men than in women across all age groups. Suicide is now the single biggest killer of men under 45 in the UK.

Suicidal feelings are driven by the fear that you’ve reached the end of your resources. But with the right kind of support, resources can be restored and replenished, pain can be processed, and new ways to live life can be found.

In 2019, we’re determined to create a step-change in attitudes and prevention strategies across hospitality.

Suicidal behaviour is often described as a “cry for help”, as if it’s not to be taken seriously. But passing off talk of suicide as attention-seeking is dangerous. Anyone thinking or talking in these terms is in deep distress. If someone you know is talking like this, don’t be afraid of engaging with them. Talking about suicide with a sympathetic listener has never driven anyone to kill themselves.

But how? And how do we spot the signs, if someone isn’t actually talking about suicide?

The time has come to put strategies in place across the industry.

We’re not experts in this field, and there are many experts out there. We’ll seek their their expertise, then focus it through the lens of hospitality.

At this point, we’re looking for expressions of interest. Does this post resonate with you? I’m at mark@hospitalityaction.org.uk, or you’ll find me on Twitter (@marklewis32).

By collaborating on this important project, we can save lives.

 

Joining the Fundraising team, and events to look forward to

Hi, I’m Kirsty, new Fundraising & Marketing Executive at Hospitality Action.

It is my third week as an official member of the Fundraising team; however, I have been working with Hospitality Action for the past year, across the Fundraising, Grants and EAP teams as the charity has been growing and getting busier. This has given me a unique perspective into how HA works, and how we help to support the people in our industry on a daily basis.

My background is in scientific publishing, administration and events organisation, and I hadn’t had any involvement in the hospitality industry prior to joining HA. I have learned so much about how the industry works and the hard work done every day by amazing, passionate people behind the scenes that the public don’t see when we visit a restaurant or hotel, for instance.

It has also been a real eye-opener for me to see the struggles that people who work in the hospitality industry, or who have previously worked in the industry, go through. Whether it is somebody applying for a grant, or making use of the EAP via their workplace, in my relatively short time at HA I have seen so many stories of people who have fallen on hard times through illness, addiction, trauma or other  difficult circumstances. It has been humbling to see how the work that HA does to provide the support they need – financial, emotional or otherwise – has such a huge impact on their lives, and how grateful they are to the charity for providing the support they are often desperately seeking.

The work that the Fundraising team do is crucial to raise the funds to make all this possible. I’m very excited to have joined the team here at HA, knowing the work that I will be doing will have a tangible benefit to those in need. There are a lot of exciting fundraising events coming up, and I can’t wait to be a part of making those events fun for everyone, and raising money for HA at the same time.

26 November: Raymond Blanc OBE
This December: Hats Off for HA

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I am very much looking forward to being involved in this year’s Christmas events. The Festive Fundraising Dinner on 26th November with the legendary Raymond Blanc OBE will certainly be a special evening, and a great way to kick off Christmas celebrations. I am also co-ordinating a brand new fundraising campaign running throughout December called Hats Off for HA, where we’re asking hotels and restaurants to donate their cloakroom fees to us – an easy way for businesses to generate awareness, raise money and be in with a chance of winning a prize.

Interested in taking part in Hats Off for HA? Or attending an event? Or perhaps you want to know about other ways you can support HA? Say hello and email me at klyons@hospitalityaction.org.uk or call me on 020 3004 5505.

Could 2019 be the year you host an event to support your fellow hospitality people?

An amazing thing happened last Tuesday. Jose Pizarro joined forces with Chris and Jeff Galvin to cook up a storm at a gala fundraising dinner in aid of Hospitality Action at Jose’s eponymous restaurant at the top of Bermonsdey Street.

The result? A wonderfully enjoyable gourmet evening – and £17,000 in the HA kitty to spend on helping hospitality people in difficulty.

A full house of Galvin and Pizarro fans gathered to enjoy a spectacular feast, celebrating the very best of Spanish/French cuisine:

  • Croquettas squid ink with Alioli Jamón Ibérico 100%, 5J, Acorn fed Brochette of Autumn Vegetables
  • Escabeche of Yellow fin Tuna, smoked Aubergine caviar
  • Presa Ibérica 5J , Mushroom and Romesco sauce
  • Saint-Marcellin, Torta del casar
  • Apple tarte Tatin & Normandy crème fraîche.

As well as benefiting from ticket sales, we profited from a live auction, silent auction and £20 prize draw.

At HA, we run a full schedule of fundraising events aimed at generating revenues that we can then disburse as grants. And we’re immensely grateful to everyone who supports these events, which range from cycle challenges to pub quizzes, and from polo days to blue riband chefs’ dinners (check out our Raymond Blanc Dinner in London, next month).

However, we’re never happier than when kind people like Jose, Chris and Jeff reach out and tell us they’re freestyling an event themselves, on our behalf.

Could you have an HA event in you? Would you like to engage with your client base and show them you’re proud to support your own industry charity?

We’d love to hear from you.

SME alert: the business case for subscribing to HA’s employee care programme

I’ve outlined the value our Employee Assistance Programme (EAP) delivers subscribing clients previously, on this blog.

Our EAP provides employers with a means to increase their teams’ well-being, morale and performance. It offers a comprehensive suite of benefits that takes a holistic approach to employee welfare, providing specialist, independent and confidential advice, support and assistance, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

I know what you’re thinking. Comprehensive support of your whole team – that’s got to be expensive, right?

Actually, no. Far from it, in fact. Subscribing to our EAP costs just £5 per employee per year, with a base threshold of £250, which we apply to cover set-up costs.

In other words, any hospitality SME with up to 50 team members pays just £250 to keep their workforce happy, healthy, engaged and work-ready for a full year.

Beside all the philanthropic, emotional reasons for wishing to subscribe, there are clear business reasons for doing so.

Taking into account the agency cost of hiring a full-time employee, if buying into our care programme stops just one team-member from leaving, you’ve already more than recouped your return on investment.

The same cold logic applies when it comes to staff absences. If our EAP can keep just one member of staff at work for a few days rather than off dealing with a personal problem, so saving you the cost of temporary cover, again you’ve more than covered your initial outlay.

I’d urge you to look at our EAP, not as a ‘nice to have’ a cost to the business, but as a means of boosting productivity and profitability.

Update: Mitchell tells his own story of confidence rediscovered and hurdles negotiated …

Back in April, I posted a blog titled Recovery through Positivity: how HA helped get Le Manoir’s Mitchell Collier back on track.

The blog described how two dents to his self-esteem and a serious health scare had left Mitchell’s confidence at rock bottom – before Hospitality Action stepped in to help.

Mitchell’s story is an inspiring example of how enlightened employers can support their workforces by adopting our Employee Assistance Programme. The blog got massive traction on social media – so much so, that we asked Mitchell if we could make a video of his story.

Top man that he is, he immediately said yes. Thanks Mitchell, you’re a star.

Is the health and wellbeing of your team and the success of your business worth £5 per head per year? If so, email me at mlewis@hospitalityaction.org.uk or call me on 07919 324978. We’d love to help you.

Happy teams and the halo effect: how our EAP can help hospitality suppliers, too

More and more operators are catching on to the value of Hospitality Action’s Employee Assistance Programme (EAP). At just £5 per team-member per year to support the health, happiness and work-readiness of their workforce, why wouldn’t they?

But did you know our EAP isn’t tailored exclusively for operators – that we also offer it to suppliers of products and services into the hospitality market?

Personal and health issues can have a major impact on the way people work, resulting in reduced performance, lack of focus and absence. These, in turn, can lead to lost productivity and significant cost to employers. Our care programme offers a raft of benefits, including personal counselling, legal guidance, addiction support, debt advice and a financial well-being service, parenting helpline, elderly care helpline and a whistle-blowing service.

For subscribing suppliers, participation in the scheme is a win-win. It demonstrates a commitment to their team’s physical and mental wellbeing; provides a tool for growing morale and therefore retention; ensures employees are productive and undistracted by issues that might prevent them from focussing fully on their jobs; and enables them to invest in the sustainability of the industry they serve, and whose robust health they depend upon.

Already, we’ve got the likes of ACT Clean, The Caterer, HIT Training and Oranka Juice Solutions onboard as clients. This summer, they’ve been joined by the Country Range Group, who become the first foodservice wholesale buying group to subscribe.

Country Range are no strangers to HA. Last year – their twenty-fifth – they nominated us as their charity of the year and raised an impressive £25,000 in support of us.

Country Range Group Managing Director Coral Rose explains why the group is so supportive of HA: “The charity has a wonderful heritage, it’s genuine and credible, and it’s geared up to supporting the industry we also support in a wide number of ways, from addiction awareness for students right through to companionship for the elderly.

“Last year, to mark our anniversary, we did loads of activities in aid of HA, including a Muddy Maniac challenge and a gala dinner at Hampden Court. We also had a stationary bike installed at our office. Members of the team took it turns to cycle until we’d completed a 1000-mile virtual cycle-ride around all our customers’ locations. The team loved getting involved, which made it great both for team building and for member engagement.”

Creed Foodservice, one of the 12 independent wholesalers that comprise the group, also actively supports HA at events such as our Cotswold Cycle Challenge; and Managing Director Philip de Ternant sits on our Southwest fundraising committee.

Now the Country Range Group has extended its support of HA to include our EAP.

Coral says: “We’d written about the EAP in our customer magazine, Stir It Up, but we thought it was just for end-users. When we became aware it could be applied to wholesalers, we decided to sign up as a group. It represents good value, it allows us to support the industry charity, and it’s a cost-effective way for members to give benefits to their own employees.”

Would you like to safeguard the wellbeing of your workforce and benefit from the halo effect that comes from supporting the industry you serve? Contact us now at eap@hospitalityaction.org.uk.

100 miles in aid of Hospitality Action

We celebrate 13 brave cyclists who represented Hospitality Action and our industry on Sunday 29th July and completed the Prudential RideLondon-Surrey 100 in wet and windy conditions. The team jointly raised over £12k for our charity.

The cyclists include Richard Davies Chef at Calcot,  Richard Ball Executive Director of the Calcot Collection, Brian Rowledge and Adam Rowledge, General Manager at Georgian House Hotel, Chris Moore from The Clink Charity, Carl Maskell Director at Just Chefs. Chef Adam Grey, industry professionals John Webb, Steve Batten, Richard Turner, Chris Schroeder, Raul Deflorian, Front of House Manager at 45 Park Lane, The Dorchester Collection and Nicholas Rettie The Master of The Worshipful Company of Innholders.

What teams them all up are their passions for cycling and hospitality.

     

Here is what our supporter Raul Deflorian, Front of House Manager at 45 Park Lane, The Dorchester Collection said: “We made it!!! It was really tough, two bad punctures after the biggest hill of the race and a lot of rain and wind, but overall very pleased! I managed to reach the target and contribute to the outstanding work that you all do at Hospitality Action!”

Long term supporter Nicholas Rettie, Master of The Worshipful Company of Innholders said: “I rode the Prudential London Surrey a few years ago and really enjoyed it, so I was delighted to have got a place this year through Hospitality Action. I’ve been in the hotel business all my working life and have always admired the work Hospitality Action do for the people in our wonderful industry who are in need of support. To raise some money by riding 100 miles was exhausting, but it was really rewarding and for such a worthy cause!”

Final word from Adam Rowledge, General Manager at Georgian House Hotel:

“It has been a pleasure to work with Hospitality Action since I became aware of the excellent work that they do around 7 years ago. There are so many different ways to support the charity, many of which I have been fortunate to be able to do during this time, from completing sponsored events such as the British 10k run and RideLondon 100, staging fundraising and awareness events during Hospitality Action Week, welcoming guests to my hotel for Golden Friends afternoon teas and of course attending the more indulgent events such as the wonderful Back to the Floor dinner and of course there are many more ways that you can help, all year round. I passionately believe that we not only should want to support Hospitality Action to give back to our industry but that we actually have a duty to. The charity is always there whenever we or our team needs its support and I have been fortunate to directly see the benefit of their involvement in my own business through the Employee Assistance Programme and the support that HA provided to our additional focus on employee wellbeing.”

We thank our supporters for making our work possible. Without the funds you raise, our hands will be tied and our phone lines will be unanswered. Isn’t it comforting that hospitality workers in need have somewhere to turn to?

You are selflessly pushing yourself to achieve a challenge, to deserve the pledged moneys, only to hand everything over and help the colleagues within our industry who are next in line to be given support in their difficult time.

Yes, there is a constant stream of applications to assist and we can’t turn anyone away. If people have reached out, they are relying on our help. Going forward, we can’t leave anyone behind. Asking for help is hard and most often people would like to remain anonymous. We try and help people confidentially and without any disruption to their personal or working life whenever possible. That way they manage to keep up with their lives, keep their dignity and regain their confidence and power back.

Hospitality Action is here, with all our 181 years of experience to support you, educate or assist you. Only together we can make the changes that are worth making in the industry we all love. Choose to fundraise, choose to support, sign up for our newsletter and feel part of the conversation.

Credit where due: passing on beneficiaries’ thanks to all our supporters

Of the many reasons for choosing a career in hospitality, one of the foremost has to be the pleasure that comes from being thanked for the food, drink, accommodation or service you’ve provided.

At Hospitality Action, we thrive on positive feedback, too. ‘Thank you’ is a powerful phrase, and we’ve collected backloads of thank you notes from people we’ve helped.

Of course, we can only offer the support that elicits this feedback because of the fundraising that underpins our charity. On that basis, the thanks should really go to you, the selfless people who make our work possible.

You know who you are: consider yourselves well and truly thanked for your generosity of spirit. You are changing lives for the better – as you’ll see from the comments below.

“I am in tears as I type. Thank you so much. You saved my life.”

“Thank you very much for your help to save my house and my life, I couldn’t ask a better person for help.”

“With your help, I’m having the best winter. It is the first time I can have heating without worrying about the bill. It’s wonderful. Thank you for the peace and happiness you have given me.”

“To all the wonderful staff at Hospitality Action, thank you so much from the bottom of my heart for all your help since losing my job. I don’t know what I would have done without it.

“Thank you for the vouchers for the afternoon tea. I took my mum with me as she supported me through my treatment. After the trauma of last year, it was lovely to be able to relax and have an afternoon out.”

“Thank you so much. I am utterly speechless and eternally grateful.”

“I just wanted to thank you all for the lovely Christmas card and gift card. When I opened it this morning I cried at the generosity and kindness you have shown.”

“Thank you for the adaptations. I applied to other organisations, but they had either run out of funds or we didn’t fit their criteria. You were quick to reply and made us feel less humble for applying. I can’t thank you enough.”

“Please accept our sincere thanks for your generosity. It has made a world of difference. You made this happen: 😊.”

“Just wanted to say thank you so much for my grant. It has helped me a lot with getting my life back on track.”

“Thank you so much. With the help and support of your kind organisation, it is a lot easier to focus on the positives and a bright future.”

“I cannot express in words the gratitude I have for your charity. I’ll never forget that you helped me at my worst point. Not only have you changed and improved my life and situation, you’ve restored something I haven’t had in a very long time: hope.”

“Thank you doesn’t seem like enough, you are all angels and I am forever grateful for your help.”

“Your grant made such a difference to my mental state, which no doubt helped in the healing process.”

So what is an employee assistance programme, anyway – and why do you need one?

As well as its grants programme, Golden Friends scheme and range of other products, Hospitality Action runs an Employee Assistance Programme.

A what?

An employee assistance programme, or EAP for short. Not the snappiest title, but don’t let that fool you: our EAP is central to our commitment to helping people who work or have worked in hospitality and find themselves in difficulty or crisis.

HA’s EAP – I prefer to call it an employee care programme – provides employers with a means to increase their teams’ well-being, morale and performance.

It offers a comprehensive suite of benefits that takes a holistic approach to employee welfare, providing specialist, independent and confidential advice, support and assistance, 24 hours a day, 365 days per year.

Personal and health issues can have a major impact on the way people work, resulting in reduced performance, lack of focus and absence. These, in turn, can lead to lost productivity and significant cost to employers.

Our care programme offers a raft of benefits, including personal counselling, legal guidance, addiction support, debt advice and a financial well-being service, parenting helpline, elderly care helpline and a whistle-blowing service – all for an annual cost of just £5 per employee.

In short, it’s about keeping hospitality people happy, healthy and work-ready.

Uniquely among EAP providers, should financial help be required by any recipients of EAP support, we’re able to point them towards HA’s grant-giving team, for consideration for further support.

For employers, subscribing to our EAP:

  • demonstrates a commitment to their team’s physical and mental wellbeing;
  • provides a tool for driving morale and therefore retention;
  • ensures employees are work-ready and undistracted by issues that prevent them from focussing fully on their jobs;
  • and enables them to support the wider work of their industry charity.

Here’s a blog I wrote recently, in which Sally Beck of the Royal Lancaster Hotel, London, explained to me the reasons why she’s an EAP client. “Once you understand the EAP, you fall in love with it”, she told me.

In order to attract the people it requires to close its skills gap, UK hospitality needs to be able to offer jobseekers meaningful career opportunities, not just salaries. And that means operating against a professional landscape.

By providing a safety net to the market it serves, HA plays an intrinsic role in professionalising the hospitality industry – and our EAP is central to this.

Is the health and wellbeing of your team and the success of your business worth £5 per head per year? If so, give us a shout. We’d love to help you.

So you think you know what Hospitality Action does? Think again.

 

They used to run an advert for the Radio Times on the telly. If you remember it, you’re a fifty-something like me, or older. The pages of the magazine would flick before you, lingering on the week’s best content – “Petula Clark celebrates 50 years of the vote for women! Stewpot takes the Treasure Trail! Why you should never argue with a Sagittarian!” – before an awe-struck reader delivered the pay-off line: “I never knew there was so much in it.”

The Mad Men and Women of the advertising world could easily apply the same creative concept to Hospitality Action.

Ours is a complicated story to tell. We offer grants, counselling, family days out, a retiree befriending scheme, addiction awareness seminars and an employee assistance programme. We support people who are about to start work in the industry, people who currently work in the industry, people who have retired from the industry – and their partners and children.

No wonder people are often confused by exactly what Hospitality Action is and what it does.

Someone in the industry recently asked: “HA, that’s the charity for the homeless, right?” And another told me: “you’re the people who help drunk chefs.” Well, yes, yes – and no.

Yes, we help industry professionals unable to pay for a roof over their head. And yes, we support people with a range of addiction challenges. But we do much, much more besides.

Simply put, HA is a force for good. We offer lifelines to people who work or have worked in hospitality and find themselves in difficulty or crisis.

Behind their smiles and their game faces, hospitality professionals are as prone to life’s challenges as we all are – that’s where HA comes in.

We help people set their lives back on track. This might mean funding home adaptations for someone dealing with the onset of a life-changing medical condition. It could mean helping a victim of domestic abuse to start a new life. It could be laying on Golden Friends lunches or teas to keep loneliness at bay for industry retirees. Or it could take the shape of offering crisis support to teams dealing with traumatic events like the London Bridge or Manchester Arena attacks.

Whatever the challenges are that beset the human condition, HA can help overcome them.

See – I bet you never knew there was so much to us?