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Is being a chef bad for your mental health?

Dec 2nd, 2017 by

Brutal pressure at work is causing depression in many chefs. In one survey, more than half said they took painkillers or drink to get through shifts. What is happening behind the kitchen doors?

In October last year Andrew Clarke, head chef of the much-admired Brunswick House restaurant in Vauxhall, London, posted a picture of himself to Instagram. It’s in black and white. He is sitting at a table against a wall of distressed plaster, his straggly hair unsuccessfully tucked away beneath a ragged beanie hat, tattooed arms on show. In his hand is a teacup and before him, a bottle of spirits, the implication being that the contents of one are filling the other. It could have been the moody cover to one of the albums Clarke thought he would release when he was pursuing his first love, music.

The long message below tells another story. “This was me 10 months ago,” it says. “Inside I was suffering from a pain so extreme that I could barely cope … I hated who I was and wanted to kill myself every time I came home from work … I never believed in depression and only ever saw the world in a positive light. But it’s not until you experience it, that you realise just how real it is.” The message has a positive ending. With the support of family and friends Clarke is back on his feet. “Depression can happen to any one of us,” he concludes. “Don’t suffer in silence. Talk to someone. Talk to me.”

Related: ‘Don’t be ashamed’ – readers’ tips for improving mental health at work

Related: Man down: why do so many suffer depression in silence?

If you work as a chef or in another related hospitality industry job and have experienced issues similar to those raised in the article, we’d like to hear from you. You can share them in our encrypted form here and we may feature some of them in our reporting.

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