Subo head chef and Food for Thought founder Mal Meiers on mental health in the hospitality industry and how the organisation will spread the message in 2019.

Food for Thought was born from my own struggles with depression and anxiety. I wanted to share my story to draw attention to the avenues of support available in an effort to reduce the amount of people who would have to go through what I did before seeking help. In creating Food for Thought, I created a way to tackle my struggles head-on.

Support for Food for Thought grows every year, from the chefs and producers involved to the opportunities to speak and share my story. The concept has grown and 2018 was our biggest year so far. We held five events, including one in Auckland, which ranged degustation and canapé to conversation events.

In 2019, Food for Thought is going to work more closely with Lifeline and R U OK? to complete the circle of awareness and support for those suffering in silence. The aim is to spread the campaign across the year, add extra events and make them more manageable.

Wellbeing is important and trying to achieve balance is something I strive for with my staff at Subo. I support and encourage them to find interests and hobbies outside of the kitchen and ensure they have balance so they are at their best at work. As a society, we tend to be very disconnected from each other with social media and instant access to information. By reconnecting with staff, family or members of a group (sport/hobbies, etc) and taking the time to invest in these communities, you have the ability to better understand the people around you and may be able to identify if someone is struggling.

I believe the industry has recognised the need to destigmatise mental health through the support of Food for Thought and the recent R U OK? hospitality campaign. Considering it was almost taboo to talk about mental health six years ago, the fact there is support around campaigns like this and a push for better understanding and staff wellbeing is inspirational.

This article originally appeared in Hospitality’s February issue which is available for purchase for $9.90 here.

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