‘Help is on the other side’: Put mental health on the table and #GETMASS

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‘Help is on the other side’: Put mental health on the table and #GETMASS

Words by Lesleigh Luiten

Almost 950,000 people working in Australia are employed in the hospitality industry.

Of that number, 55% are female and the average age is 26. Staff are earning an average of $500 per week and are working in an industry categorised by strong competition, physical demands, and conflicting personalities – all of which is done in the public eye. Industry leaders are change catalysts who set the tone for organisational culture and it’s about time that culture changed.

The hospitality industry was designed to provide an enjoyable experience. Whether that enjoyment comes from food and beverage, accommodation, travel and tourism or entertainment, industry providers ensure that everyone is taken care of. But who takes care of the hospitality staff? Mind and Strength Support (MASS) specialises in mental health training and consultancy for hospitality.

Stay up to date with what’s happening in and around Melbourne here.

MASS was born from founder David Spargo who combined his love and passion for hospitality with his love and passion for supporting people. We caught up with Spargo to discuss the issues the hospitality industry faces, why MASS was something the industry needed, and his mission to reduce the harmful impacts of stress and increase mental health wellbeing within the hospitality industry.

“There are a lot of psychological risks and hazards within the hospitality workspace and I don’t think we are addressing them as an industry,” Spargo says. “We still have a long way to go.

“It’s got to start somewhere and I am hoping to be part of that change within Melbourne and hopefully wider in Australia, in time, to address some of these issues and help businesses better support their staff.”

Discussing the issues the industry faced, the following critical items stood out; Substance use, stress, financial pressures including increased cost of living, and the fact that investment in staff is lacking. However, the most pressing issue in the industry is a lack of education and support around mental health and wellbeing. A survey conducted by MASS shows that 83% of staff in the industry don’t have access to counselling. Spargo says it is a poor result compared to other industries. “We don’t really have a huge or a strong union in the industry. So governing bodies for hospitality workers’ rights are still in development, whereas if you look at other trades and other areas they have a much larger advocacy group which has a lot more funding behind it.”

Whilst he acknowledges that the cost of counselling services might be a barrier for businesses, the costs of not offering these services is a lot higher. “If I was to look at psychological claims in 2005, they varied anywhere between a couple of hundred dollars to a couple of thousand dollars, whereas in 2023 claims can exceed $100,000. These claims increase venue insurance; if staff are making more workplace injury claims from a psychological aspect. I believe a lot of staff are now becoming more aware of their rights as employees. I think previously in hospitality, some venues took advantage of staff.”

Spargo outlined the direct benefits businesses see when they begin to prioritise mental health within the industry: “a reduced risk of workplace psychological claims, a happier workforce,  safer work environment, a more supportive work environment, and increased retention with staff.”

MASS provides the following support to venues around Melbourne to combat these issues. “We link them in with appropriate mental health support and services. Where I can I will try to link them in with options which can save them money. That is one of the biggest barriers; the financial aspect of engaging support and services. Link them with services where you don’t have a huge waitlist.

“I know that for example there is some trouble with accessing psychologists within a timely manner. We also educate business owners and managers on how staff can engage in a mental health care plan. And discuss how to reduce the psychological risks within their workplaces and create a safe work environment.”

To learn more about Mind and Strength Support visit their website, follow them on Facebook or Instagram. And if you’re in Melbourne keep an eye out for MASS “help is on the other side” coasters at a hospitality venue near you.

To book a no-cost, no-obligation discussion of the challenges in your workplace or community email: [email protected].

This article was made in partnership with MASS.