Mental Health in Hospitality – #timetotalk by Sat Bains

Sat Bains takes a break from social media to promote wellbeing on World Mental Health Day. He picks up the story…

“On 10 October, every year, the World Health Organisation recognises World Mental Health Day. First launched by the World Federation for Mental Health in 1992, it has run almost annually since 1996 on the same day, each year dedicated to a different theme.

While previous years have focused on “mental health and older adults”, “living with schizophrenia” and “mental health in the workplace”, this year it turns its attention to “young people and mental health in a changing world”.

In the 30 or so years that I have been a chef, the world has changed beyond belief. Industry icons are only a Twitter handle away, and in culinary terms, at least, the world has most definitely shrunk. And yet, despite a seemingly smaller world and the fact that World Mental Health Day was launched almost three decades ago, mental health still faces a relentless taboo, particularly in hospitality.

The hospitality industry has given me an incredible career – I’ve achieved things I never thought possible – but there is no getting away from the fact that it has also been a demanding career and a physical one at that.

Chefs are, for the most part, fragile souls and we live wholly in the knowledge that we are only as good as our last meal. My wife Amanda and I put ourselves under immense pressure to perform at the highest possible level, and we expect no less from our teams. We run disciplined, systemised environments with high standards, and we start our day assuming that we are all on the same page – one team, one dream.

The rise of social media has brought amazing opportunities for chefs like me, it’s enabled many of us to promote our businesses, sell tables, crowdfund and get our voice heard without being beholden to one particular newspaper or another.

It has undoubtedly helped many of us build confidence and a support network among chefs and customers alike, and a steady stream of compliments can boost your ego no end. But there’s also a dark side of social media that many people, and many chefs, struggle to handle which is why I felt that launching a blackout was so important on this critical day. And so today, along with many of my colleagues and industry friends, I am quitting my personal social media channels for one week to shine a spotlight on mental health and to promote wellbeing.

Like me, many of my colleagues have addictive personalities which plays right into the hands of social media. We live in an era where many of us are slaves to our phones and we have become addicted to notifications – notifications that open us up not only to adulation, but to trolls and critics too. This dependency is not good and for me and many others I believe taking a break from social media and all it encompasses to have time to reflect on my own wellbeing and the chefs for whom I am responsible for can only be a positive thing.

As a business, wellbeing is key for us. A shorter working week, good, balanced and nutritious staff meals and our healthcare package goes some way towards ensuring this, but we also encourage fitness too – we think it’s fundamental to a positive mental attitude.

Beyond our four walls, we are fortunate to have Hospitality Action to support people in our industry through the hardest of times. Together with HA, we can break the stigmas that stop so many people asking for help and create an environment where people feel they have both the support of their line manager or a friendly ear at the end of HA’s action line.”

If you need support please call the Hospitality Action help line: 0808 802 0282. It’s free, confidential and open 24/7.