Many of us who have worked in the hospitality industry are fully aware of how mental health can be an issue for ourselves, friends and colleagues.
From working as a casual for minimum wage with worries about money, whether you’ll be working next week, how you are going to pay rent and bills and the sometimes anti-social nature of caring for everyone else’s social life, there are lots of causes for stress, anxiety and poor mental health in the hospitality industry.
For one man these issues have driven him to try and make a difference.
Liam Crawley (pictured) is now a successful and well-known chef, but that doesn’t happen overnight and the tough start to his hospitality career, combined with several events that happened through it, saw Crawley start working on offering help to others in the industry, and Hospo for Life was born.
“I didn’t have a good start to my career, and in my late teens and early 20s I went through a lot of heavy things, and so a lot of Hospo for Life is very personal, and I know people in the hospitality industry can suffer.
“If I’d had Hospo for Life available to me at certain parts of my life, it would have helped. I needed it, I needed it really badly.”
Crawley told Bars and Clubs that as a casual not earning great money if he wanted to make an appointment to speak to someone, he had to pay and then if the boss comes in and says ‘I need you to work’ the appointment gets canned.
“Most of the time when you have those feelings and you need to see someone, you usually need to see them there and then, and not put it off. Because when you put it off once you generally don’t go back and try see them again, often you end up putting yourself last and you go to work.”
He added: “During my late teens and early 20s I was homeless for a while and I found that extremely tough mentally. That was caused by not getting paid properly, I’d start a new job and they’d come up with excuses for not paying me in the first few weeks and my home would be gone. That was a vicious mouse-wheel for me for ages in the industry.
“At times like those you really need someone, but you don’t have the ways or means to see them.”
Since then Crawley has built up a successful career, but said he lost some friends to suicide, and in particular a close, chef friend killed himself last year – just a few days after Liam had a conversation with him.
He said that gave him a real push and having been dismayed that a lot of mental awareness dinners weren’t really doing the right thing, he decided to search for something “good and proper”.
He explains: “I went on a search for someone to team up with who could really be a benefit fit to the industry and have the full ways and means to bring it to hospitality. I got put on to Derick Borean the CEO of Altius Group, we had a meeting and I said I thought the group was perfect for the hospitality industry and so we decided to partner up.
“This partnership has been absolutely brilliant. Altius can pretty much provide 24/7 consults for people. So it opened up the opportunity to be able to offer appointments at any time for hospitality workers. And through our Employee Assistance Program (EAP), people don’t need to pay for the service, we can provide it for free for those who need it.
“So all of a sudden we are now able to iron out all the creases, all the can’ts and now it’s I can do this.”
The Hospo for Life sessions can be facilitated through Skype making the program available to those in regional areas, or Altius have offices in all the capital cities, which can be used for a consult.
“This has opened up Australia for us, to be able to help and support the industry where they actually need it,” Crawley said.
Being the solution
Hospo for Life operates as a not-for-profit organisation, and has grown thanks to significant investment from Crawley himself plus a large fundraising event at the start of the year, which is being used to make sure as many people as possible know about the program and can access it.
Crawley adds: “I don’t want Hospo for Life to just be about awareness, I want it to be the solution to the problem. There is a lot of awareness out there now about being on top of your mental health, but as for solutions and specifically for the hospitality industry? That’s what I wanted to change.
“Let’s help the next generation of the industry have something to look forward to. I didn’t have that chance, so if that’s something I can do, well that is the best way that I can support the industry.”
Crawley is also hosting #HospoHappyHour Facebook Live sessions every day, which is being supported by Warner’s Gin. Those sessions see Crawley speak to a member of the Altius team about a key aspect of mental health and that is followed by a chat with key industry personnel.
So far sessions have included Sven Almenning, Cristiano Beretta and Tom Warner, among others with another two weeks of chats lined up. So far they have chalked up over 120,000 views, and Crawley is hoping to get that up to 250,000. You can follow the sessions on the Hospo for Life Facebook page.
The organisation is always looking for sponsorship to make sure their services are consistently available to the whole hospitality industry, if you would like to support Hospo for Life, get in touch through the email address above.