Breaking the Silence: 9 Ways to Nurture Men's Mental Wellbeing in Hospitality

There's a topic that often simmers below the surface of the hospitality industry: men's mental health. The high-pressure working environment can contribute to stress, anxiety, depression and burnout. Too often, men in foodservice suffer in silence because there is still a stigma around this topic.

By talking openly about psychological wellbeing, we can spread awareness that it is okay to struggle sometimes and that asking for help is a sign of strength. 

When leaders set an example of positive masculinity and treat their team with fairness and respect, it supports everyone’s mental health.  

We asked our chefs and experts how we can spot the signs when someone is having a hard time, encourage men to reach out and how to support them when they do.

Set an example by sharing your own experiences

Create an environment where discussing mental health is normal. Leaders in the culinary industry can set an example by openly discussing their own mental health experiences and encouraging others to do the same. Help your team cope by adding mental health training to professional development programs. This can include stress management techniques, coping strategies and recognizing the signs. If we raise awareness, challenge stereotypes, and promote a culture of wellbeing, we can make a difference. 

Ammar Alekili
Executive Chef, Copthorne Hotel, Dubai

You are not alone

There’s an idea that men can’t be sad, they can’t cry. That is completely wrong. It’s not a sign of weakness to have mental health challenges. We’ve all screamed in the cooler. That’s ok. It’s ok not to be ok. The more we talk about mental health, the more we break the stigma. Remember that you are not alone.

Art Ledda
Chef, US Foods

Give yourself a dopamine boost

Self-care doesn’t need to be complicated. Something as simple as 30 minutes of exercise four times a week can reduce stress levels. Another tactic is to spend quality time with your family and friends. These are easy ways to boost your dopamine levels, which is a hormone that lifts your mood. 

Mick Élysée 
Executive Chef, YaSomo

Use a code of conduct so everyone is treated fairly

A fair kitchen allows everyone to proceed on their career path. There is attention to safety. People feel like they belong there. A fair kitchen accepts you on your best days and your worst days. Set a positive masculine example through your own actions. Have zero tolerance of unacceptable behaviors. Use a code of conduct so everyone understands what is expected of them. 

Patrick McCune 
Workforce Operations Manager, West Side Catholic Center

Curious for more inspiration? Watch A FAIR CHAT with Justin Smith, Patrick McCune, Tim Hunter and Jason Pruett.

Use feedback to increase confidence and performance

The way you give feedback matters. If someone makes a mistake, speak to them privately instead of calling them out in front of everyone. Explain what the issue is and how they can do better next time. This method doesn’t lower their confidence or change the way their colleagues see them. They are able to get back to work on a positive note and improve. 

Prashant Aripirala
Group Executive Chef, Uniglobe Holding

Understand what kind of help a person needs

If someone on your team is having a hard time emotionally, you can support them even if you are not a healthcare professional. You can still assist by just being there. They might just need a pep talk or to take a short break. Sometimes it's something more serious and you may need to put them in touch with the right people to get the help that they need.

Candice Adams
Academic Operations Manager, Capsicum Culinary Studio

Create a space where people feel safe

Treat your team with dignity and they will reciprocate that. There should never be screaming, even if things go wrong. Take a step back and breathe to gather yourself. As leaders, we need humility. That’s how we dispel the myth of the angry male chef and create a new culture in the kitchen where people feel safe and respected. 

Jason Pruett
Director of Workforce Development and Social Enterprise, Episcopal Community Services of San Francisco

Remember the importance of your team

Let your team know that you will share your expertise, but that you are also willing to listen. Ask other chefs for their ideas. When your team sees you asking for advice, they will do the same. It helps us all stay open to learning. Be an example of positive masculinity. Be humble. Admit your mistakes. Always think about your team. We are nothing without them.

Tim Hunter
Executive Chef, Food Bank of Delaware

Get to know your team so you can spot the signs

It's important to be there for your team and listen to any concerns they might have. Sit down with them regularly for a staff meal and talk about personal matters. Ask them what’s going on in their lives. Reduce the stress levels in your kitchen by socializing outside of work or taking a field trip to a supplier. All of this helps to identify early warning signs a person might have when struggling with mental health. 

Andrew Ballard
Corporate Executive Chef, Unilever Food Solutions Australasia

As an industry, we can work together to change the way we view mental health, especially for men. Once we overcome the stigma attached to it, we can assist people get support if they need it. Let’s remind each other that asking for help is a sign of strength!

Do you want to learn more psychological wellbeing, both for yourself and your team? Sign up for our free leadership training for advice and insights on creating a safe working environment. 

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