The passing of beloved cultural and culinary wizard Anthony Bourdain is a tragedy that has affected people around the globe, but perhaps the greatest tragedy is how common a theme suicide is across the hospitality industry, especially in the kitchen.
“Not only is food service alone the nation’s largest industry, it posts the highest rates of drug and alcohol abuse as well as stunningly high rates of divorce and broken relationships. Long hours and constantly changing schedules create incredible stress which is compounded by the limited (or absent) financial safety net for most front-line employees and even a number of managers and owners.” - Big Table
This harsh reality is reflected in the results of Kat Kinsman’s survey posted on her site, Chefs with Issues. Here are some of the eye-opening stats of the 1,600 people who responded, of whom were mostly kitchen staff:
- 84.2% suffer from depression.
- 73.2% suffer from anxiety.
- 49.9% deal with substance abuse issues.
- 75.5% use alcohol to cope with the fallout from this, while others turn to drugs, compulsive eating, sex or overspending.
- 57% of people said they felt they couldn’t say anything at all to people they work with. The people they work side-by-side with, day in, day out.
- 68.6% didn’t want to be thought of as weak.
- 54.1% didn’t want to be thought of as crazy.
Only 3.9% of people said their issues had nothing to do with the profession.
The time has come to tackle the mental health issue, and shed some light -- and help -- into previously dark corners. Below is a list of industry-related resources that offer much-deserved support to those who may be struggling with mental, physical, or financial health.
Note: This list of resources is a small sampling (and a work-in-progress!) of the industry support currently available. If you'd like us to add one that you and/or your team have benefited from, please email us at [email protected]!
Ben’s Friends is the food and beverage industry support group offering hope, fellowship, and a path forward to professionals who struggle with substance abuse and addiction. The group exists to provide a safe haven and an anonymous, judgment-free forum for workers in an industry that has one of the highest rates of substance abuse in the country.
Big Table: Community around food, care through community
Big Table exists to see the lives of those working in the restaurant and hospitality industry transformed by building community around shared meals and caring for those who are in crisis, transition, or falling through the cracks. This community and care are open to all in the industry without condition.
Chefs with Issues: Where restaurant workers discuss mental health concerns
Chefs with Issues is an online forum started by food and mental health writer, Kat Kinsman, dedicated to destigmatizing mental illness in the culinary industry and helping those affected by it get the help they otherwise can't (or won't).
CORE: Children of Restaurant Employees
CORE supports children of food and beverage service workers by helping them to navigate life-altering circumstances and hardships (e.g., family death, injury, medical diagnoses, loss of home, etc.). CORE is the nationally recognized community of support for all food and beverage service families in need by ensuring they feel cared for and valued.
DrugRehab.com is an online resource created by Advanced Recovery Systems. Since 2015, it has provided free researched, fact-based resources, including statistics on addiction rates by industry. The site offers a wide range of information, from risks of various substances to the latest approaches to treatment and real stories of recovery.
Emulsified Family is a blog and support group for chef wives and significant others. It provides an open space for those connected to the culinary industry to discuss how to combine restaurant and family life each day.
The Giving Kitchen: Heroes with aprons instead of capes
The Giving Kitchen provides emergency assistance to restaurant workers through financial support and a network of community resources. Based out of Atlanta, Giving Kitchen Crisis Grants have supported over 1,000 restaurant workers in need of emergency assistance, with over $1.5 million dollars in financial support. Currently TGK supports 47 counties in Georgia, with plans to service the entire state by the end of 2019.
The Heirloom Foundation is a national 501(c)3 nonprofit organization based in Charleston, that advocates for a healthy food industry through public outreach, professional development, and benefit events in an effort to eliminate the stigma that exists in kitchens around asking for help. They reinvest in their communities through direct service grants to nonprofit organizations that provide support to restaurant workers and entrepreneurs.
The Louisiana Hospitality Foundation
The Louisiana Hospitality Foundation works to strengthen Louisiana’s hospitality industry through support of workforce development programs and access to culinary and hospitality education. Hospitality Cares is their crisis grant program providing financial assistance and/or guidance to people in the hospitality industry during times of crisis.
NEWH: The Hospitality Industry Network
NEWH is the networking resource for the hospitality industry, providing scholarships, education, leadership development, recognition of excellence, and business development opportunities. NEWH provides meetings, educational programs, seminars and career opportunities for its members.
NY Farm Net
NY FarmNet provides free, confidential, on-farm consulting services that facilitate farm families in achieving their business and personal goals. Along with financial and business planning, consultants can assist with strategies to manage stress-related emotional issues, substance abuse, depression and anxiety, relationship concerns, and more.
Restaurant Recovery: Helping our industry to heal
Restaurant Recovery helps restaurant workers find and pay for drug and alcohol treatment, and help loved ones get the assistance they need. They create support networks for restaurant workers who are struggling with addiction, seeking sobriety, or are in recovery, and advocate for change in the restaurant industry through increased awareness of its unique culture.
UN86’D is a charity created to aid in monetary relief for restaurant professionals in need. In addition, they plan to educate workers on how to utilize public and private health care for their own benefit.
USBG National Charity Foundation
The USBG National Charity Foundation is committed to advancing the lifelong stability and wellbeing of service industry professionals through education and charitable activities. They continue to work towards their mission through three programmatic pillars: Social Responsibility (Health & Wellness: physical, financial, and mental), Community Service, and Philanthropy. Also, you do not have to be a United States Bartender's Guild member to qualify for their grant programs.
WCR: Women Chefs & Restaurateurs
WCR is an active resource for women seeking to advance culinary education and gain recognition in various areas of the food and beverage industry. Through invaluable experiences and opportunities, WCR helps leverage the voice of talented women, helping to elevate their position while building a strong connection of industry peers.