You have seen me bang the drum on the importance of focusing on mental health several times before, and I am going to do so again.
Events in recent months have once again brought the fore how vital it is that we have open and honest conversations about how each of us as individuals feel, that we know how and where to access professional mental health resources when required, and that we take any stigma away from these types of conditions.
Now is also a pertinent time to have those discussions, as the end of the government’s furlough scheme is approaching in September. Employees may be fearing for their jobs, while employers have the added pressure of deciding as to whether to make redundancies or soldier on with a staff roster that may be excessive for the workload. And with so many UK catering equipment dealerships being family-owned or lifestyle SMEs, the burden of business strategy often falls on one or a small group of directors, who know each staff member personally – there’s no distance in feeling the impact of each decision, unlike a large multinational when the workforce can just be numbers.
Added to the trauma and anxiety that the pandemic has wrought on all of us to a greater or lesser degree over this last 18 months, this can cause a cauldron of emotions. Which is why I believe that the new Together We Will industry-wide social enterprise is needed now more than ever.
The purpose behind Together We Will is to focus on corporate social responsibility, addressing challenges such as: health and wellbeing, environmental sustainability, equality, diversity and inclusion, to help deliver support and solutions for businesses and people across the industry. The initial focus is on mental health, with the initiative making sure professional resources for the catering equipment industry are easily accessed and well-signposted.
While it has been initiated by CEDA and Cedabond, both organisations are at pains to emphasise that this is open to everyone, no matter their affiliation. Initiatives like this are bigger than any commercial concerns, they are simply about saving lives. It has been heartening to see so many in the sector throw their support behind this, and I know all parties are keen to ensure they manage this sensitive subject correctly, so they would welcome any further input to make certain this is the case.
Events and mental health first aider training will form keystones of the strategy, and a webinar series kicked off on 24 June, with mental health ambassadors Clarke and Carrie Carlisle delivering a candid session on their journey and experiences of mental illness.
I absolutely welcome the Together We Will initiative and the Catering Insight team will do as much as we can to promote this valuable new resource. It’s ok to not be ok, and now the new social enterprise will hopefully show the industry what to do if that happens to you.