Founder of The White Jacket Effect Amber Kaba will sit down with industry and mental health professionals for a panel discussion on Monday 5 August at Melbourne restaurant Cumulus Inc.

The event will kick start a conversation that aims to change the culture of hospitality and offer strategies to empower people.

The long-term goal to ensure support services are in place to provide help when it’s needed. To this end, Kaba has set out to establish Safe House Leaders in the hospitality community who will abolish the culture of suffering in silence; address balance and encourage health and wellness; and start conversations about how to have a healthy relationship with alcohol.

“It’s time to take action to change the culture of the kitchen and to redefine what it means to put on that white jacket,” says Kaba.

Tickets for the event are available via The White Jacket Effect.

Starting the conversation

With more than 15 years’ experience in the industry, Kaba has seen first hand the detrimental effect working long, unsociable hours paired with substance abuse has on the mental health of hospitality professionals.

The organisation’s name draws attention to the ‘package deal’ that comes when people don their chef’s whites: a high pressure environment combined with high rates of depression and substance abuse.

The chef was motivated to found The White Jacket Effect after losing her chef mentor and best friend to suicide. That friend asked Kaba, who hasn’t had a drink for over two years, for advice about how to stop drinking.

“The next thing I new, he’d taken his life… from that experience I just realised I didn’t know where to send him to get help,” Kaba said to an audience of industry professionals at the Hospitality Leaders Summit in Sydney on 29 July.

“I felt really powerless in providing that support for him. That’s sort of where The White Jacket Effect was born. I wanted to get a group of friends together and empower us with the knowledge of what to do in situations like that and how to deal with the pressures of this industry we love but be able to stay healthy and deal with them powerfully.”

Kaba first gathered a collection of friends together at the start of 2019, holding the first meeting in April at Sydney’s Quay. With events in Noosa and Canberra following in July, and Melbourne and Brisbane lined up for August, The White Jacket Effect is now ready to expand nationwide.

“It’s only very new,” says Kaba. “I just decided to get this group of friends together at the start of the year and since then I’ve found that there’s been a such a fantastic response. People are really ready to talk about this topic and they’re interested in finding tools and resources. It’s to raise awareness of the support services that are out there.

“I’m gathering information feedback from each of the events to see how best the White Jacket Effect can support the industry moving forward.”

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