I received a very interesting email this month from someone in the catering equipment industry asking Catering Insight to lead a campaign to raise awareness of mental health issues. While we don’t have the scope to institute a mass crusade, I can and am certainly going to use my column as a platform.
The mental health charity Mind reports that approximately one in four people in the UK will experience a mental health problem each year, but that only one in eight adults with a mental health issue are currently receiving treatment. It’s incredible to think that a quarter of us could be struggling yet just a small fraction of those are getting help.
The catering equipment industry can be a strong breeding ground for conditions such as depression, as distributor and manufacturer sales reps, engineers and outfitters can be on the road and working away from their families for long periods. The job can be very isolating.
Plus for the many distributors who are small businesses, the management team have to keep quite a few plates spinning simultaneously, in terms of steering the company in the right financial direction and managing project workloads, all of which can be a hugely stressful endeavour.
And it doesn’t even need to be a specific circumstance that triggers an issue, it can literally happen to anyone at any time. As someone who has suffered a bout of depression herself, I think we need to treat mental health more in the vein of a physical condition, and not just ‘grin and bear it’. After all, if someone had just broken their leg, you wouldn’t tell them to get on with it and get back out there in their company car or van would you? They would need treatment and time to recover. It’s exactly the same for mental health. And just like some physical ailments, there may not be a cure, so the issue may never completely go away, but with a combination of medication and learning coping techniques, it can be managed.
All companies need to be more understanding and accommodating when it comes to mental conditions, so that there isn’t this stigma surrounding them which discourages reporting and seeking help. This can be especially prevalent in a ‘macho’ environment as the catering equipment industry often is, where the overwhelming majority of executives are men. Being an ardent feminist, I will fight just as hard for the right for men to express their feelings without reproach, and combat the scourge of toxic masculinity which says that only women can have heartfelt conversations.
The one thing you can never get away from is your own brain. So let’s look out for each other and ensure we all have an open ear if someone needs to talk. Mental health matters; let’s make sure we recognise and assist with that.