It’s Time for a Mental Health Check-In

By: Giselle Medina 

Taking care of your mind is equally as important as taking care of your body. While food can nourish the body and the soul - it can also be a source of anxiety, stress, and illness. Cooking and creating food may be your passion but also cause burnout - something the hospitality industry is notorious for. 

Many are working to destigmatize mental health in the workplace and in our personal lives through open dialogue as well as by offering comprehensive support and resources. Food can be a prompt for honest conversations about wellness and healing, during Mental Health Awareness Month and all year long.

Content Warning: Eating Disorders

ShiftWork Episode 1: An Industry Mental Health Check-In: In an industry with a culture of hustling, difficult hours, low hourly pay, and little-to-no health coverage, mental health challenges run rampant. But there are a few committed individuals and organizations that offer support and models of change to the hospitality industry and its workers. They’re tackling addiction support and destigmatizing the need for mental health counseling. In this episode, host Kiki Louya hears from Chef Brother Luck who shares his own struggles with mental illness at a time when his career was at its peak. Kristina Magro, co-founder of Support Staff sits down for a conversation about the work that needs to be done to empower industry professionals, from back of house to management, to make necessary changes for workers mental health.

Meat and Three Episode 78: Nourishing Our Mental Health in the Time of Covid: The fear, isolation, and economic devastation surrounding this pandemic has been physically AND emotionally overwhelming for many of us. We delve into the unseen effects of the pandemic on our emotional well-being. At the top of the show we hear from Darcel Dillard-Suite of Full Circle Health in the Bronx. Then Bryce Buyakie reports on shifting perceptions of body image during the pandemic and Tash Kimmell explores the experience of eating alone in isolation. Matt Patterson and the hosts of Processing, Zahra Tangorra and Bobbie Comforto, discuss how Covid-19’s toll on the service industry has affected the mental health of restaurant workers. Jenny Goodman, co-host of Opening Soon, speaks with Steve Palmer, the co-founder of Ben’s Friends about how the support group is helping people in the restaurant industry stay sober in increasingly challenging times.

Processing Episode 53: Iris Ruth Pastor - ”The Secret Life of a Weight Obsessed Woman:” We welcome author, motivational speaker, and eating disorder advocate, Iris Ruth Pastor. Iris joins us to discuss her decades-long battle with eating disorders, how she saved her own life, and just what her amazing mantra, “preserving your bloom”, means to her. Iris is such a delight of a human, and we were so blown away, not only by her incredible life story, but also by her humor, humility, and warmth. We felt filled with positivity after talking with Iris, and as with all of our amazing guests, we felt as though we had truly made a new friend. Please check out Iris’ book, The Secret Life Of a Weight Obsessed Woman.

Heritage Radio Network on Tour Episode 393: Mickey Bakst and Ben Ellsworth on Sobriety and Saving Lives: Industry veterans and champions of Ben's Friends, Mickey Bakst and Ben Ellsworth discuss sobriety and support in the restaurant industry. Ben's Friends is a resource for hospitality professionals struggling with addiction and substance abuse. These two share personal stories about their experiences with sobriety, converse about the impact of the pandemic on the organization, and emphasize the importance of asking for networks to programs through Indigo Road that offer free mental health care and pathways to home ownership.

Queer The Table: Episode 17 Changing Shape: This episode was originally produced for Season 2 of Bodies, hosted by Allison Behringer. Trans folks are 8x more likely than cis folks to be diagnosed with an eating disorder. Nico shares their own experience with trying to untangle their gender dysphoria from their feelings and behaviors around food.

Item 13 Episode 22: Mental Health & Wellness with Dr. Carol Mathias-O'chez: Dr. Carol Mathias-O’chez is an Psychologist passionate about helping people thrive in all areas of their life. With a Doctorate and Masters in Educational Psychology and a Bachelor of Arts in Psychology, her in-depth knowledge of learning and teaching, based on developmental and psychological theories provides an understanding of how people think, learn and behave. She focuses on solution-focused therapy aimed at helping children, teenagers, young adults and adults break unhealthy cycles, unlearn negative thought patterns and thrive in all areas of their lives.

Buenlimón Radio: Episode 46 Depresión no es una debilidad: La salud mental es un problema apremiante en el mundo de la cocina, una industria conocida por el ambiente de alto estrés y presión. Hablamos con una chef que enfrenta este asunto de manera muy personal. La Chef Jezabel Careaga es la fundadora de Fuerza for Humans, donde ofrece recursos de salud mental, tanto como espacios para diálogo y comunidad, para trabajadores de hostelería. También es diseñadora, emprendedora, y fundadora de Jezabel’s Café, una panadería en Philadelphia que se especializa en la cocina del noroeste de Argentina. ¡Esperamos visitarla en cuanto sea posible!

Translation: Mental health is a pressing problem in the world of food, an industry known for its stressful and high-pressure environments. We speak with a chef who is tackling this issue in a very personal way. Chef Jezabel Careaga is the founder of the organization Fuerza for Humans, which offers mental health resources, spaces for dialogue, and community for hospitality workers. She’s also a designer, an entrepreneur, and founder of Jezabel’s Café, a bakery in Philadelphia that specializes in Northwestern Argentinian cuisine. We hope to visit in person as soon as it’s possible again!

Processing Episode 32: Judy Collins- "The Seven T's:" Bobbie and Zahra are joined by music legend Judy Collins. Judy is a grammy award winner with a career spanning over 60 years. She not only has a 55 album body of work under her belt, but she is also an author and activist. Judy joins us to talk about her decades-long struggle with eating disorders, the tragic loss of her only son, and the power of acceptance and vulnerability. Judy is wise in a rare way and has a beautiful way of looking at life, having gone through the deepest darkness and come out the other side. This conversation was so rich and textured and we felt changed after it. We also felt deeply honored for her words and her time and her perspective. We hope you enjoy listening to the beautiful Ms. Collins.

Opening Soon Episode 37: Mental Health and the Covid Crisis: We’re back with another episode of RE-Opening soon, talking to chefs, restaurateurs, and those in the hospitality business about the impacts of the Coronavirus Crisis. We’ve spoken with chefs on closing down, pivoting to delivery/takeout models as well as how people are approaching their local government and getting involved in charitable work as a means to operate and stay active in this unprecedented era. But we haven’t talked about how the industry is mentally and emotionally addressing the stresses of the crisis. From lost income, to dispersed teams, upended daily routines and, of course, the isolation, there is a stark contrast to the normal (or what we previously knew as normal) day in the life of a hospitality professional. Joining us today is Kat Kinsman, Senior Editor at Food & Wine, host of her own podcast, The Communal Table, and author of Hi, Anxiety.

Processing Episode 87: The Tasks of Grief: This week we discuss the tasks of grief and how they factor into the ever-winding grief journey, and where food plays a role. It was a very interesting and enlightening conversation, and we hope it is helpful for anyone who is navigating their own relationship with grief. 

The Big Food Question Episode 28: How Can Restaurants Support Staff Mental Health?: At a time when many people are struggling with their psychological well-being, we’re taking a close look at the structural and cultural issues that make restaurant workers especially vulnerable. Producer Hannah Fordin starts with the big picture, in conversation with Hassel Aviles co-founder of Not 9 To 5. They look at the restaurant industry and the ways deeply ingrained hierarchies and structures, as well as widely accepted destructive coping methods, need to shift. Then we zoom in, seeking advice from experts like co-hosts of HRN’s Processing, Zahra Tangorra and Bobbie Comforto, as well as Restaurant After Hours’ Zia Sheikh, on how we as individuals can tend to our psychological well-being and what sort of support is out there. Click here for a guide to alternate nostril breathing, mentioned in the episode.


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