Eighteen years ago, restaurateur Steve Palmer was strung out on alcohol and cocaine. He was given the choice of either job termination or rehab. After Palmer made the choice of rehab, he used what he learned in treatment to not just help himself but other people struggling with addiction and mental illness in the restaurant industry.

Stigma of Mental Health in the Restaurant Industry

According to a recent survey in The Heirloom Foundation, 73% of participating chefs have said they suffer from depression, anxiety, and substance abuse. In a restaurant setting, everything counts from greetings to bringing customers exactly what they ordered. You have to smile through the pain no matter what to ensure your boss is happy with you as well as your customers. 

You may assume that your co-workers cannot possibly be dealing with a mental illness and that the problem is only with you. To cope, people in the restaurant industry may be self-medicating with drugs or alcohol to make it easier to work a long shift. The only thing that drugs and alcohol could be doing is making your mental health symptoms worse. It is important to take care of your mental health while working in the restaurant industry and being open with your boss.

Ben’s Friends

Ben Murray came to South Carolina to help Palmer open up a restaurant. Little did Palmer know that his colleague was struggling with sobriety. Eventually, Palmer found out that Murray shot himself in his hotel room. Palmer felt dumbfounded that he had no idea what his friend was going through and wondered if the machismo of the restaurant industry was what stopped Murray from telling anyone about his depression. This inspired him to create the addiction support group “Ben’s Friends.” It is a support group similar to Alcoholics Anonymous, but for cooks, waiters, and others in the hospitality business.

Changes Palmer is Making in the Restaurant Industry

In Palmer’s restaurants, one of the changes he is making is to not have the time-honored tradition of everyone getting together to have a drink at work. He also wants to start a home loan program where employees are given a down payment for their home interest free for three years. All of these changes Palmer is making shows that he wants to show his employees that he cares about them and wants to do what he can towards good mental health.

Located in Georgetown, Texas, Alta Loma is a transformative living center to help those struggling in early recovery to transition out of our Psychiatric and Substance Abuse inpatient center. Alta Loma believes that addiction is born from an untreated mental illness in which our facility is willing to help you. Our facility offers residency, medication management education, individualized treatment, life skills education, 12-step support, and more tools to bring patients the confidence to be able to live an independent life. For more information, please call us at 866-457-3843.