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Mental health support program launches to help foodservice employees


A major casualty of the COVID-19 crisis and related restrictions is a growing mental health epidemic among one of Canada’s largest and most vulnerable work forces.

Not 9 to 5, a non-profit organization based in Toronto advocating for mental health in the foodservice industry, was recently granted close to $240,000 by the Future Skills Centre to provide critical support to this population.

The funded initiative will address new issues caused by the pandemic and the immediate need for resources to assist workers in crisis. The program, called Mind Your Health, will provide mental health education and substance use support for those affected in the foodservice industry from back-of-house staff to managers. It is one of 64 initiatives being funded by the Future Skills Centre as part of its “Shock-proofing the Future of Work” program that was specifically launched in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and to encourage the creation of partnerships that promote resilience.

Mind Your Health will launch an online educational guidebook . . . followed by a webinar series featuring mental health experts and key findings from the mental health survey.

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Based on research previously conducted by Not 9 to 5, the hospitality and foodservice industries have unique obstacles because they tend to attract people who live with mental health and substance use challenges. Unconventional hours, low pay, high-stress pressure, reliance on tips, lack of health-care benefits, and a culture that has traditionally encouraged workers to repress and suppress mental and emotional experiences, have created a toxic environment that during the pandemic has only become further inflamed, the organization said in a news release.

The initial stage of programming will be to conduct the first comprehensive, Canada-wide research on the state of substance use and workplace mental health in the service and hospitality sector in Canada to support program development and knowledge mobilization. This research will be led by Not 9 to 5 in partnership with Reunion Inc., (under Ovare Group – a management consultant firm that specializes in business transformation).

After formal research, Mind Your Health will launch an online educational guidebook designed for mass comprehension across the sector, followed by a webinar series featuring mental health experts and key findings from the mental health survey. This will be followed by a certification program to continue breaking stigmas, deepening practical mental health awareness and education for workers, and encouraging decision-makers in the industry to practise accountability.

“We encourage restaurant operators and staff to take advantage of program’s like Not 9 to 5’s ‘Mind Your Health’ that are designed specifically for our community in order to help prioritize our industry’s mental health and well-being.” –Roberto Sarjoo, Restaurants Canada

“We encourage restaurant operators and staff to take advantage of program’s like Not 9 to 5’s ‘Mind Your Health’ that are designed specifically for our community in order to help prioritize our industry’s mental health and well-being,” said Roberto Sarjoo, director of marketing and communications at Restaurants Canada.

Mind Your Health is funded by the Government of Canada’s Future Skills Centre.

Not 9 to 5 is a non-profit global leader in mental health advocacy for the foodservice sector. Since 2018, Not 9 to 5 has been reimagining the industry by breaking stigmas and fuelling hope through practical education and meaningful community-building.