Hosted by the Mental Health Foundation, Mental Health Awareness Week 2019 takes place this week from Monday 13 to Sunday 19 May 2019.

Mental health plays a vital role as part of our overall wellbeing both in our personal and professional lives, where we can experience external pressures at any time. The feeling of not having complete control of a situation can cause coping with stress difficult and overwhelming. Constant juggling of pressure and responsibility can mean we are always in a state of flux. In fact, one in four people will experience mental health issues throughout the year.

In September The Caterer distributed a short, 10-question survey asking people about their experiences of mental health in hospitality. It received an overwhelming response, with more than 100 submissions in the first 24 hours and 713 in total over two weeks, demonstrating what a hot topic it is for the industry.

Of the respondents, 59% consider themselves to have a mental health problem at the moment and 71% had experienced a mental health problem at some point. Of these, 51% had sought help or advice for it, but 56% said their employer was not aware of their mental health problem – very little has changed since the last survey conducted by The Caterer six years ago.

As employers we recognise that we have a duty of care to our staff members which is why we now have two dedicated Mental Health First Aiders at Vacherin. Shane Cooke, Senior Company Executive Chef and Yeshna Mistry, CSR Lead both qualified after completing a two-day course by Mental Health First Aid England, run by St John Ambulance.

Shane and Yeshna are now trained to be able to recognise the signs and symptoms of common mental health illnesses and effectively guide a colleague towards the right support. This resource is for any employee who may be experiencing mental health difficulties to prevent these issues from becoming more serious and seeking help earlier on.

The training explains how to approach someone who may be struggling; to assess the situation and how to support their colleague in need. A big part of the role is to actively listen to a person, provide reassurance and non-judgemental support. Importantly, these are the first, actionable steps anyone should take when noticing a colleague is in need. Mental Health First Aiders are there to encourage further support through dedicated channels.

Shane says “People who feel like they need help and don’t know where to turn  now have the option to see me or Yeshna as their go-to person. This is completely in confidence if they wish. I have all the advice they need to get help for all kinds of mental health issues. I also now have the ability to seek out people who may need help by seeing a change in their behaviours and actions.”

Throughout Mental Health Awareness Week and beyond, Vacherin will continue to raise awareness and reduce the stigma of mental health across our business. The wellbeing of our people is at the heart of our culture and we’ll promote the support that we offer through Shane, Yeshna and the Hospitality Action Employee Assistance Programme which every member of our staff has access to.