How does the pub sector deal with mental health issues?

By Nikkie Thatcher

- Last updated on GMT

Industry help: there have been calls for further support of mental health in the trade
Industry help: there have been calls for further support of mental health in the trade

Related tags: mental health

Mental health is at the forefront of minds, particularly at the moment, and the pub trade is an industry that could do more to support its workers in this area.

The Licensed Trade Charity (LTC) revealed 12% of pub workers have missed work because of a mental health issue.

The survey of 370 pub industry employees also found 55% said they felt they and their co-workers would benefit from having a greater understanding of mental health issues.

LTC chief executive Jim Brewster said: “While the survey results are encouraging in the way our industry does not appear out of line with the UK as a whole on mental health, we know more can be done.

“It is reassuring that so many pub companies are working hard in this area to support their staff and also making full use of our services such as the 24/7 helpline, free counselling and training for managers.

“We will continue to drive forward innovation in this area to enable us to support pub, bar and brewery workers on mental health, as we do in so many other aspects.”

However, the LTC also reported more than 13,000 people were supported in 2018 thanks to £1m-plus in grants.

Recipients of the money were helped with clearing rent arrears, unpaid bills, home adaptions, educations and funeral grants.

Many of those who received help from the charity by using its 24/7 helpline, which is manned by its advisers.

A website is also available and hosts advice as well as over 50 help sheets on subjects, including mental health, money, housing, education and health.

This followed the publication of research that discovered more than three quarters (81%) of UK chefs working in professional kitchens experienced poor mental health​ during their careers.

Top factors

Furthermore, almost half (48%) said there was not enough being done to support their mental wellbeing in the workplace, a recent independent study of UK chefs from Nestlé Professional’s Chef range revealed.

The research also showed the top factors contributing to stress are staff shortages (58%), lack of time (43%) and limited budgets (42%). The lack of natural daylight in the workplace was also cited, with 41% claiming it negatively impacted their wellbeing.

In addition, a chef-turned-lecturer called for more help to support mental health of those who work in hospitality kitchens.

Steve West is a former chef of the InterContinental on London’s Park Lane and used to work with Prue Leith but is now a chef tutor and catering assessor.

While working in a kitchen is hard work, the façade of keeping up appearances that everything is OK takes a toll on chefs’ mental health, West said.

But it wasn’t just the food side of hospitality businesses that research found issues around mental health support.

Statistics revealed by drinks industry charity The Benevolent Chris Porter stated less than half (46%) of staff described themselves as being ‘on top of their mental health’.

A survey of approximately 700 people in the drinks industry, ranging from bartenders to vineyard workers, by The Benevolent, highlighted that despite strides made in recent years, the drinks industry still has a way to go in addressing the mental health of its staff. 

According to findings revealed at Craft Beer Rising 2019, approximately half of respondents (49%) believe that their company has no mental health mechanisms in place, while a third revealed that they had experienced high levels of stress, anxiety and fatigue in their line of work.

However, the organiser of mental health-focused scheme Compass Project has said he realised the pub sector still has a long way to go in breaking down the attached stigmas.

The initiative organises free training for licensees to become mental health first aiders and then goes back into pubs to run arts workshops that explore the topic with theatre.

Raising awareness

Compass Project manager David Paulin said: “I don't want to sound negative but I feel that mental health has become a theoretical conversation, it needs to move into being a practical one. 

“In terms of how we talk about mental health, in theory, we are very progressive but whenever it boils down to the nitty gritty, what are we doing to protect ourselves, our employers, our employees, the people who serve us in the bar?”

“People are all for mental health but when you say let’s do something about it to protect people’s mental health, it’s a bit more difficult.

“The training makes people better informed in different mental health struggles, how you can help that person, how you can give advice and listen and support in a more meaningful way. 

“It also gives advice on how to deal with live events like a panic attack or different things like that.”

Star Pubs & Bars managing director Lawson Mountstevens called for the industry to recognise and act on the fact that working on the hospitality front line can be stressful.

He said: “We all know people – friends, family members, and colleagues in the trade – affected by mental health problems. Anything that can be done to raise awareness of this issue, such as Mental Health Awareness Week (18 to 24 May) is to be welcomed.

“Awareness of mental health is just the start. As an industry, and as individuals working in it, we need to recognise and act on the fact that working on the hospitality front line can be stressful at times.

“Getting food out on time, dealing with belligerent customers, and the daily grind of running a pub business are just some of the pressures we all deal with day in, day out. That’s not to mention any personal challenges outside of work which people might not feel able to talk about.”

Similarly, High Speed Training content author and hospitality specialist Sarah Taylor said it is easy for tensions to fray and the mental health of employees to decline.

She added: “Employee wellbeing is rising up the agenda across all industries, and World Mental Health Day (10 October) provides an opportune moment for the hospitality sector to ensure it is providing support and a welcome environment for staff.

“We’ve all heard the phrase ‘if you can’t stand the heat, get out of the kitchen’. However, does this demonstrate that we accept the association between hospitality and stress?

“In a fast-paced environment, it is easy for tensions to fray and the mental health of employees to decline. Take into account staff shortages and mounting pressures affecting the sector, and it wouldn’t be unreasonable to say reaching a wellbeing crisis.”

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