top of page

Why great Mental Health is critical for hospitality

Updated: Oct 14, 2020


First up, let me say this - I am no expert on this subject, so any statistical information is taken from official sources. Being an expert though, is not what this post is about, This post is about being an average joe, with a good heart, who cares enough to try and understand the pain that some in our society go through. I wouldn't be the man I am without these qualities, I couldn't be a close confidant without this quality, and I definitely shouldn't be anywhere near a business leadership role without it.

Each year World Mental Health Day has its own theme. This year it’s about doing one thing for better mental health - for me I would add on, that one thing could also be about the support I can provide to those in distress. Whether you personally suffer from depression or know someone who does, it is important to educate yourself & also be able to help those around you.

You see, our mental health is just like our physical health: everybody has it and we need to take care of it. There appear to be more and more people using the phrase 'I have a problem with my mental health' than ever before, the stigma around admission has been reduced, and in 2020 it is at last ok, to not be ok and ask for support. For the cynics out there, yes, I expect there are a few misguided people who are happy to exaggerate to somehow gain favour - the education for them is one of support for self confidence and emotional intelligence, being told to 'man up' just won't cut it I'm afraid.

"Mental health problems affect around one in four people in any given year. They range from common problems, such as depression and anxiety, to rarer problems such as schizophrenia and bipolar disorder" - Mind

So, I would like to cover off what I feel about leaders, and the people that work in our brilliant hospitality and retail businesses, managers and teams alike. In 2020 particularly, I believe more intensely than in any other year - we are facing a crisis. This crisis is not just about COVID19 and its direct symptoms - but also the impact on our mental wellbeing, of our restricted movement, and our restricted social interaction. Human beings are social butterflies, we live for interaction, and for many many people, continued lockdown is causing untold damage within their psyche. Only yesterday, I was having a conversation with a leader in a hospitality business who was saying 'I am really missing the football now, it was my release', He had decided to fill his time differently, running, keeping fit and dedicating his time to personal and family wellbeing. He is a lucky leader, emotionally intelligent and self aware. So many are not.

It is a sad statistic, that many people, and the number is rising dramatically, that work in the hospitality and retail sectors suffer from depression..To qualify that, it doesn't mean other sectors are immune - but for the purposes of this blog...

They lead their lives as normal; smiling, laughing, polite and level headed people - performing well at work. A major part of their personal make up is around socialising. Their work dictates social interaction, and so it stands to reason that they are more than most, highly leveraged social butterflies after work also.

The fall into depression and anxiety within this sector, through lockdown, and the fear of the unknown, could be heavy and quick. In 2019 a survey of 2,000 workers was conducted by job seeker site CV Library in hospitality businesses, specifically around mental health issues. The results are a wake up call for leadership, and colleagues alike. The survey was published to coincide with World Mental Health Day today (10 October), but in 2019 - pre covid. Bear that in mind as you read through the stats.

  1. Six in 10 (62%) hospitality professionals are too afraid to tell their employer that they’re suffering with poor mental health

  2. two thirds (66%) said their performance is being affected by their own personal struggles.

  3. one third (33%) of hospitality workers fear they’d be judged unfairly if they told their boss about their concerns

  4. 28.6% simply believe their employer is unapproachable.

  5. two thirds (66.7%) of hospitality workers claim that their anxieties affect their performance in the workplace

  6. 50.8% worry excessively about failure

  7. 37.9% are less likely to take on new challenges due to self-doubt

  8. 29.1% feel constantly stressed.

  9. Nearly a third (31%) of professionals said that they feel anxious about key aspects of their jobs, and as such are neglecting personal relationships because of work

  10. A third (33%) worry about losing their jobs because of asking for time off to take care of personal issues

  11. 25.6% worry about asking for time off to care for their children

  12. A rather damning statistic for all hospitality and business leaders, is that 18.9% of people fear their bosses reaction to asking for time off and even more damning that more than half (55%) of those surveyed said their boss wouldn’t care about their concerns around mental health.

We are creating a vicious circle where staff start to underperform, which only compounds their private struggles with mental health. Make-up, clothes and a smile are easy ways to mask depression and hide it from everyone around you. However, you are anything but alright inside. Depression is more often that not coupled with anxiety. These stats from the WMHO explain the bigger picture regarding depression and anxiety.

  1. Mixed anxiety and depression are the most common mental disorder in Britain.

  2. As many as 10% of people in England will experience depression in their lifetime.

  3. The poorer and more disadvantaged are disproportionately affected by common mental health problems and their adverse consequences.

  4. Ten per cent of mothers and six per cent of fathers in the UK have mental health problems at any given time.

  5. One in five teens experiences a mental health problem in any given year

So how can we all help ?

Listed below are 5 ways to help beat depression - taken from the diaries of sufferers. These are a summary of what came from a large survey conducted by the MWO. It is important to say, that whilst the context and wording are mine, the content is not - this is real.


It can be stressful and sometimes very lonely place working. Figure out your support network. Friends are so important. It’s easy to distance yourself during times of depression, but nothing beats being with friends. If they love you, they will support you through tough times. It may feel like they are being tough on you, but better an honest friend, than a sycophantic fair weather. You don't need sympathy, but empathy and an honest voice.


Not eating or eating too much are also recognisable symptoms. Coffees and red-bull replace a healthy diet to counteract insomnia and an overwhelming sense of fatigue. It is really important to eat well and drink water throughout the day, especially if you drink alcohol in the evenings to self-medicate and cope with depression. Starving your body of nutrients won’t help your battle with depression.


Not being able to sleep or sleeping too much are tell-tale signs. You can’t get out of bed in the morning, as you have been awake all night, well that is until an hour before your alarm goes off. Your bedroom is all-important. So, invest in a nice duvet set. Keep your bedroom clean and tidy. The bedroom is a place for sleeping and having sex - watching TV on your own, or working until late in your bedroom, is not healthy. So, get jiggy with it, or get out.


Stress is a massive trigger. It is important to not let stress build up, otherwise, depression can sink in over time. Drinking and other recreational bad habits may be ways to self-medicate, but it won’t take away your depression. If anything, it will make it ten times worse. Talk to your line manager or HR if work stress is building up. Discuss problems with loved ones. Most importantly, be kind to yourself.


It takes courage to tell people around you about your depression. You never know how they will react. However, most will be supportive of you. They may be upset about those times you haven’t called or sent texts, yet seem to be posting party pictures on social media. Give people a chance to help you and you might be pleasantly surprised. If you are depressed then talk to your GP. Find a therapist. It’s great having friends, but for more deep-rooted problems and mental health issues, find a professional you can talk things over with. If you are prescribed medication then don’t worry. You would take it for other medical problems such as asthma and diabetes, so mental health is no different.

Robbie Williams - a well known sufferer of depression and anxiety says: "Depression isn’t about, ‘Woe is me, my life is this, that and the other’, it’s like having the worst flu all day that you just can’t kick"

I am extremely lucky to work in a hospitality business that values the importance of wellbeing. A company that drives a health and wellbeing strategy through: delivering better nutrition choices, protecting mental health and encouraging a healthy lifestyle. Working in Compass gives me the freedom (and encouragement) to be the leader around mental health support for my team and client, that I think we should all aspire to be. So if you are looking for a contract caterer that pulls its weight more than most, when it comes to helping your team through life - then I can't recommend any company more highly. Click here for info.

This piece though, is not an advert for my business, this is about encouraging all hospitality leaders to reach out and be kind. This is about using the message of World Mental Health day to get the message out there.

Our teams need us all the time, and those in need, well they need to know they are safe.

Don't be one of those 55%.

50 views0 comments

Recent Posts

See All


bottom of page