Chantelle Nicholson says we need to talk about our mental health during coronavirus

29 September 2020 by
Chantelle Nicholson says we need to talk about our mental health during coronavirus

When so many are in danger of being overwhelmed, it's good to talk, says Chantelle Nicholson.

I am a big fan of statistics. They're facts, they're answers, they're measurable and they shape informed decisions.

I have read in numerous places that the Covid cases from hospitality venues account for less than 5% of the total. Like most of our industry, I am lost for words at the government's latest disregard for the statistics. I feel like we are in the opposite of, excuse the term, a shit sandwich; rather than it being the bad sandwiched between the good, the good has now been spread very thinly between the bad. I could deal with lockdown as there was hope beyond it, but now what?

Helplessness and complete uncertainty are not feelings I have been familiar with in the past. It seems there is no ground to move forward on. As someone who has always seen the fuller part of the glass, this feels very unsettling.

And the biggest thing to suffer in our industry will be people. Any business is about people, as they are the true foundation of any operation. So, here's another statistic: the Royal College of Psychiatrists reported that 43% of psychiatrists saw an increase in urgent and emergency mental health cases in May. Fast-forward to now, and the picture is bleak: more redundancies, business closures, pay cuts and lack of income are all looming.


Thoughts of the future are challenging, as there is no familiarity, certainty or ability to work through this for some. Things people held as important, pre-Covid, such as career progression, financial progression and even getting on the property ladder, may now seem unattainable. As of this moment, mental health is my biggest anxiety of all.

Personally, my mental health has always been somewhat of a boomerang. Just when I thought all was well, something would trigger an unwilling return of a lack of ability to be happy. Yes, it's the usual recommendations that help: exercise, talking about it, writing about it and supporting others who are doing great things, such as the Pilot Light campaign (founded by two chefs), Hospitality Action and Me, Myself in Mind.

I always talk of the analogy of any injury or illness in relation to mental health, as I feel it removes the stigma. If you have a knee injury, you see a knee specialist. If you have a mental health issue, you see a professional who can alleviate the pain and suffering. It should be as normalised as that.

While there may be numerous constraints right now, we all have the ability to be kind, supportive, caring and to be honest. We also need to normalise communicating that it is OK to not be OK. It is high time we removed the ignominy around talking about mental health in an open, transparent, and collaborative way to ensure the sustainability of our people.

We need to normalise communicating that it is OK to not be OK

So, in the words of my fellow chefs who created the Pilot Light campaign, let's burn the stigma and ignite the conversation: talk, share and support.

Supporting your teams to thrive

Chantelle Nicholson will be speaking on day five of the People Summit Webinar Week, 19-23 October. The series of free webinars will tackle the biggest issues facing HR leaders as the industry returns to full operation.

Nicholson will be joining a panel of operators and experts discussing the challenges of financial losses, health anxiety and difficulty adjusting to new working conditions, as well as exploring strategies on how to safeguard your team's health, and where to find support and resources.

Find out more about the People Summit here.

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