Chilled Media Introduces a new mental health column lead by Industry Professional, Megan Marshall.  

“That customer is making me feel unsafe.”

“Our manager told me I’d lose shifts if I called out.” “Why aren’t you taking a shot with us?” “My body hurts; I wish I could take a break.” “The boss just told me a mistake I made is going to come out of my paycheck.” “I just went to the bathroom and cried.”

Mental Health in the Hospitality Industry, post it notes,

Mental Health in the Hospitality Industry

Photo by Luis Villasmil

These are all phrases I have said or have heard in my personal experience as a hospitality worker. I sometimes find that my mental health is being beaten down from all directions throughout a shift. This led me to wonder, “Am I the only one feeling this way?” Searching through social media for mental health support and giving a brief survey to my peers about their experiences, I found out that I am, indeed, not alone. There seems to be a broad consensus that the topic of mental health has long been neglected in our field with seemingly no end in sight. So, where do we start?

Callie Stewart

Callie Stewart

I sat down with Callie Stewart, a mental health expert and a licensed Master Social Worker. She is the Director of Strategic Engagement and Partnerships at the National Organization for Victim Assistance; she is also a service industry veteran.

Many people agree that the hospitality industry is wonderful to work in because of the community it breeds. Stewart says that “the community created through the service industry can be one that is extremely welcoming and supportive.” While I feel that is 100% true, I wonder why our strong community still struggles with supporting each other regarding mental health.

So, what barriers to mental health are inherent to the service industry? To this, Stewart says that “people in the service industry are often under high amounts of stress… because of a busy night, uncertainty regarding income, having to manage antisocial behavior from customers, responding to sexual harassment, racism and homophobia, and listening to the emotional turmoil of others. In addition, part of your job is to build connections and make sure people have a good time. There is this idea that to serve is to be engaging and social, regardless of what you have going on personally. And alcohol can be an easy way to loosen up and get in the mood to put on your “server face.” Still, it also becomes a fairly normalized quick fix in the industry that isn’t always beneficial to the individual.”

With all this stress thrown at us day in and day out, we must begin to have open conversations. Stewart’s thoughts on this are that “if mental health problems aren’t addressed or communicated in a community, red flags and concerns end up being avoided, under-recognized and normalized. It is important to reflect on how we evolve our habits to belong and how we are enabling others to change or avoid issues.”

Through this writing, I hope we can all come together to start thinking about how our role in the industry enhances or inhibits the importance of mental health. The more supportive and healthier we all are the better success in work, life, and community. We are all in this together, so let’s start a conversation.

What mental health topics do you want chilled to cover? Head to the comments below and let us know!


About Callie Stewart
Callie Stewart is the Director of Strategic Engagement and Partnerships at NOVA, dedicated to strengthening vulnerable communities using quality educational content, partnership collaboration and effective outreach. Callie has project design and management experience in the nonprofit sector, including: creating and providing training to an international audience of victim assistance professionals, managing psychosocial support for special-interest groups, developing membership services, and creating strategic marketing plans. Callie is a Licensed Master Social Worker with clinical experience in trauma-informed therapy. Callie is trained in human subject research and protection, Trauma-Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, psychoeducation, victim advocacy, and Suicide Risk Assessment and Safety Planning. She received her Master of Science in Social Work from the Columbia School of Social Work and her B.A. from the University of Michigan – Ann Arbor.