Hospitality workers urged to ask a life-saving question: R U OK?

TAKE THE TIME: Top chefs and hospitality workers are throwing their support behind R U OK? Day. Back row: Kyle Whitbourne, Clare Bremerkamp, Garreth Robbs, Jake Patterson, Mitch Beswick, Ben Neil. Front row: Yoann Cromm, Troy Rhoades-Brown, Josh Niland, Frank Fawkner. Picture: Dominique Cherry

TAKE THE TIME: Top chefs and hospitality workers are throwing their support behind R U OK? Day. Back row: Kyle Whitbourne, Clare Bremerkamp, Garreth Robbs, Jake Patterson, Mitch Beswick, Ben Neil. Front row: Yoann Cromm, Troy Rhoades-Brown, Josh Niland, Frank Fawkner. Picture: Dominique Cherry

A simple question can change somebody’s life. Maybe even save it. 

September 14 is national R U OK? Day and Australians are being asked to have regular, meaningful conversations with others. If you think something is worrying a workmate, a family member or a friend, start a conversation to find out if they’re OK.

Hunter Culinary Association has jumped on board this year and is hoping to make a difference. 

All proceeds from a raffle held at the association’s seasonal lunch at Muse Restaurant this week will be donated to R U OK? and 250 awareness armbands and “conversation cards” are being distributed to apprentice chefs and front-of-house students at Hunter TAFE campuses.

Mental illness and suicide is not, of course, confined to the hospitality industry however several high-profile chefs known and respected in the Hunter have taken their own lives in recent months. Another was a young Newcastle chef and father of one. 

“We are aware of the challenging environment and at times the demanding nature of working within the hospitality industry,” chairman Ben Neil said.

“All industries have their stresses but with hospitality’s long hours and the demanding nature of a relatively low-margin industry it can mean needing to do more with less. And customer expectations being high means workers need to perform at the highest level all the time.

“Given the nights and long days, creating a healthy lifestyle out of work can be harder to reach and reliance on alcohol and other props can worsen the situation of high stress.

“Like musicians, people look at high-profile chefs and think they are so successful and are shocked they would take that path but you never really know how someone handles the pressure of work and life in general.”

Losing a hospitality colleague “hits hard”, Neil said, because of the amount of time workers spend together on the job. 

“We felt the need to contribute to increasing awareness, given the recent unnecessary loss of individuals in our industry. It is paramount that we support each other and foster this within our workplaces to assist those when at times the challenges of life and work become difficult.”

Phone Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Beyond Blue on 1300 224 636, or go to Lifeline’s online chat service at lifeline.org.au.

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