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Viewpoint: It's time to talk about mental health

05 October 2016
Viewpoint: It's time to talk about mental health

Pizza Hut's Kathryn Austin explains why the chain is calling on the industry to take a leading role when it comes to mental health problems in the workplace

Research from Mind tells us that one in four people in the UK is affected by mental health each year. For all you know, this could be the person sitting next to you or the customer you spoke to earlier. Although it can often be difficult to tell, what we do know is that more needs to be done to raise awareness within our industry.

With this in mind, Pizza Hut Restaurants commissioned industry-wide research to help better understand how mental health affects people working in hospitality. We found out that one of the biggest issues is the stigma attached to mental health problems, making many sufferers feel too embarrassed or ashamed to talk about what they're going through. Indeed, 93% of the people we surveyed said they wouldn't talk to their employer if they had a mental illness. And over half (56%) said they faced adverse treatment as a result of disclosing their mental health condition at work.

We want this to change, so we've launched a new partnership with Mental Health UK - a network of four national charities working across England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland to improve the lives of people with mental illness. Our aim is to better understand the positive steps we can take to support employees. This isn't just important from an employee wellbeing perspective; there are also clear business benefits. Employees who are happy are generally more engaged at work, for example, and able to perform at their best.

Raising awareness about different mental illnesses and the related symptoms is one of the simplest things that businesses can do. This helps managers to feel better equipped to spot when employees are suffering and understand how best to help them. And for employees, it is encouraging to see their employer taking an active role, making them feel less alone and more likely to speak out or seek support.

Training is also key. Three-quarters of respondents said they would be interested in receiving training to support colleagues experiencing mental health problems. We know that it's not just about teaching our people the skills they need to do their jobs, but also giving them skills for life including behavioural, emotional and relationship skills.

Ultimately, hospitality is all about making people happy, which puts us in a unique position to impact lives for the better. Through our partnership with Mental Health UK we want to help break the taboo of talking about mental health issues and raise awareness of the challenges people face. We know this isn't something we can do alone though, which is why we are calling on other businesses to do the same. Together, we can make the industry an even better place to work.

Kathryn Austin is director of HR and marketing at Pizza Hut Restaurants

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