Silence is deadly when it comes to mental health

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th June 2018

Anthony Bourdain's death unquestionably rocked the hospitality industry once again but why in 2018 is mental health, especially among men, still such a taboo?

We recently tackled this subject head on with an interview with chef Andrew Clarke about why he started his campaign Pilot Light aimed at helping those working in hospitality. 'People need to talk and know there is someone to talk to' was his message in brief and if Anthony's death highlights anything it is that. Silence is deadly when it comes to mental health.

Kat Kinsman from Food & Wine wrote: "As I see it, you either have to deal with the slightly uncomfortable situation of having your line cook cry in front of you, or you cry at their funeral. I'm sorry to make it sound that dire, but it is."

Her comment is not just a matter of opinion, according to the Office of National Statistics the level of suicides for those in service occupations is 9% higher than the national average. And  of the 5,668 suicides  recorded in Great Britain 75% were men - a terrifying statistic for this male dominated industry.


You might feel unsure of what to do, but there are lots of things that might help. You could:

*encourage them to talk about their feelings

*encourage them to seek treatment and support

*offer emotional support

*offer practical support

*help them think of ideas for self-help

*help them to make a support plan

Get in touch

MIND: 0300 123 3393
Text: 86463

THE SAMARITANS: 116 123 (UK) 116 123 (ROI) (UK) (ROI)

HOSPITALITY ACTION: 0808 802 0282 

Daniel Patterson on why cooks loved Anthony Bourdain

In a piece by Daniel Patterson on why cooks loved Anthony Bourdain for the New York Times, he says, 'his early writing unintentionally glorified the culture of toxic masculinity that existed in kitchens then, and that in many ways still exists'.

He added: "For so many cooks grinding it out day after day, we looked up to Mr. Bourdain as the one who succeeded against the odds, which makes his suicide even more devastating. As a friend asked me this morning, “If he can’t make it, with everything he’s accomplished, what chance do we have?”

doug chef

This is both a sad and frightening question, chefs are taught everything they need to  know to survive in the tough kitchen environment in terms of skill-set.

Could those teachers start to change the mindset of the modern chef by also teaching young chefs how to mentally cope with this pressurised environment and the affect it can have on their life away from the stove with something as simple as saying, 'if you need a chat mate...'?

How can you help someone with suicidal feelings?

There are a number of ways you can help someone with suicidal feelings, Mind is just one of the organisations offering support and on its website it states: "The main aspect of supporting someone through this is compassion, listening and most importantly not over-reacting or becoming upset. Remaining calm and talking the situation through is extremely important."

Suicide is the most common cause of death for men aged 20-49 years in England and Wales according to the Mental Health Foundation and part of the stigma that still exists about mental health for men is that men have greater difficulty talking about their own struggles than women do. 

kellerIt's ok to talk

But when they do speak out it creates a positive, rippling effect as shown just the other week by chef Andi Walker.  

He posted a tweet revealing his struggles with depression. In his accompanying message to the tweet, he voiced his concerns about him disclosing his battle with depression but the impetus behind his decision was seeing his friends struggle to the point where they felt that their only option was to do ‘the unthinkable’.

By sharing his story, Andi was hoping to encourage others who are also fighting their own battles against depression, anxiety and similar that ‘there is hope’. 

Andi highlights that problems with mental health are rife within the hospitality industry, citing the stress and pressure that chefs (and other hospitality workers) put upon themselves.

His story was the most read article we published that week.

Just man up

The concept that mental health can be conquered by simply acting more “like a man” is misguided. For chefs, both male and female, they work in an environment where they are expected to 'just man up', there is little sympathy for a cold so an illness you can't see and which can be easily hidden is unlikely to gain empathy. UNLESS you talk to those around you about how you are feeling.

It is clear by the outpouring of tributes from chefs around the world for Anthony, that there are thousands if not millions of ears ready to listen.

Social media was awash with his pictures and quotes, Anna Haugh tweeted, 'It’s upsetting to discover their gone but also that they were deeply suffering in silence needs ' and one tweet really struck home:. 


In just 56 words, Nick Grieves, the chef owner of The Patricia in Newcastle, and his team have delivered a message that kitchens and restaurants need to deliver to all their staff.

In these sad circumstances it is clear to see that this industry is a close one and Nick and the rest of the chefs who are mourning Mr Bourdain want those who are struggling to know, it's always worth speaking up, there's always someone to speak to and it may not be a quick fix but the first step is always the hardest.

The  Staff Canteen

The Staff Canteen

Editor 11th June 2018

Silence is deadly when it comes to mental health