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Minding our business

Soho House is going to be focusing on mental health this year. L&D manager and inclusion committee member Agnes Trevillion explains why

At the end of last year, The Caterer did a short survey about mental health in UK hospitality. They found that 71 per cent of people in our industry had experienced a mental health problem at some point. Of these, 56 per cent said their employer was not aware of it.

Soho House does not want to be one of those employers. It’s important that all our people around the world feel supported at work, and that includes being able to talk about any health issues. So this year we are beginning a journey towards understanding and dealing with all types of mental ill health.

As a member of the first Soho House inclusion committee, set up last year in London, I’ve already spent time looking into this. From experience I knew that a lot of our people are working in a highly stressful environment. There’s an expectation in hospitality that you will put in long hours and juggle a number of different things simultaneously. So it’s no surprise that depression, drinking and drug use at work are a problem across the industry.

But things are changing thanks to people like Andrew Clarke, a former head chef at Electric House who posted on Instagram about a period of depression he had been through. “I hated who I was and wanted to kill myself every time I came home from work… It’s not until you experience it that you realise just how real it is,” he wrote. Now recovered, Andrew has co-founded Pilot Light, the first charity that will focus solely on mental health in kitchens.

Here at Soho House we want to work with people like Andrew to lead the way on this issue. In March we will be supporting the launch of Pilot Light and in February an organisation called Time to Change will be training up our mental health first aiders. The idea is to treat mental health in the same way as physical health, educating people in all our sites so that they know how to respond if (for example) someone experiences a panic attack, or calls in sick because they are suffering from anxiety.

There’s a lot to do in terms of changing our thinking and rolling out initiatives like this around the world. But we are committed to doing the work. It starts at the top: we’re aiming to get as many senior leaders as possible trained as mental health first aiders, with Nick Jones among the first to agree. For too long mental health has been a topic people try to avoid. We aim to make 2019 the year we make some real changes.

If you’re experiencing mental health problems, speak to your P&D team, who can guide you to further support we can provide. Alternatively if we have an Employee Assistance Programme in your region, you’ll find details in staff areas

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