In 2015, approximately 14 million people were working within the restaurant industry; by 2026 this number is expected to reach over 16 million, according to Statista. Add millions more hotel staff and caterers into the mix. A statistically significant number of Americans fall under the umbrella of this job sector. More importantly, many service industry workers – from celebrity chefs down to people working in the “dish pit” – are struggling with mental illness.
People working in the field often work long, irregular hours; most people earning minimum wage and hoping to supplement their income with tips. Merely put, working in hospitality comes with significant stressors, not the least of which stem from dealing with people who are – at times – unruly, impatient, and unkind.
Still, there is a natural calling for some to the field. For those who do not love the work, the money makes it more palatable. The other benefit or reason that many individuals choose to work in the field is that employers will hire people with little education and even less experience. For those who can’t pass a drug test too, the appeal is obvious.
Anyone who has ever had the opportunity, or has chosen hospitality as a career choice, knows that it is a hotbed of alcohol and drug use. In a sense, drinking and drugging are woven in the fabric of the service industry. Many employees juggle the job with alcohol dependence, substance use disorder, and other co-occurring mental health disorders. They require support desperately.
Addiction, Stress, Anxiety, and Depression in the Service Industry
Last year, millions of people around the globe found themselves mourning the loss of celebrity chef, writer, and television host Anthony Bourdain. The Parts Unknown star was not shy about disclosing his battle with both addiction and depression. On June 8, 2018, Bourdain took his life in France; it was a sad day that sent shock waves across the foodservice industry and beyond.
While a tragic loss, the Kitchen Confidential author’s death forced the people working in hospitality to consider mental health seriously. Patrick Mulvaney – proprietor and chef at the farm-to-table sensation Mulvaney’s B&L in Sacramento – views Bourdain’s death as an opportunity to confront a local mental health epidemic, Civil Eats reports. In 2018, Sacramento’s hospitality industry lost 12 people to mental health complications. The loss of life became even more personal for Mulvaney when his close friend and former coworker, Chef Noah Zonca who suffered from depression and addiction, died suddenly.
“It was brutal. Just in between middle of December and middle of January, four people died in Sacramento, hospitality people. Three of them were either working or had worked for us before, and one was a long time Sacramentan. So, this is about as ‘home’ as home can get,” Mulvaney told Civil Eats.
The hospitality and food industry ranks highest among 19 industries for illicit drug use and third highest for heavy alcohol use, according to The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The organization reports that people working in the field are more likely than others to struggle with mental illness and addiction.
Partnering with Kaiser Permanente, the James Beard Foundation, et al., Chef Mulvaney has created a pilot program to break the stigma of mental health in the industry, according to the article. First launched in Mulvaney’s restaurant, “I Got Your Back” is a peer-to-peer or near-peer counseling program that trains select employees to be able to spot the signs of mental distress in a co-worker and check-in to see if they require support.
“Suicide happens in bursts or waves; it’s not individual incidents. You need to be cognizant of something called ‘contagion’ and how it manifests after traumatic incidents,” says Mulvaney. He adds that “If we can affect even one person, then we’re good at my restaurant.”
California Addiction and Co-Occurring Mental Health Treatment
We invite any adult who is struggling with alcohol, substance use disorder or co-occurring mental illness to reach out to Hemet Valley Recovery Center & Sage Retreat. Our highly credentialed hospital-based, recovery center is in-network with most insurance providers. Please call for a confidential assessment today to take the first step toward living in recovery. 866-273-0868.