28 July 2023

New challenge in mind: The Barstool Brothers expand mental health program to help hospitality workers

| Keeli Royle
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men in cafe

The Barstool Brothers are helping local hospitality providers learn about mental health. Photos: Barstool Brothers.

The Barstool Brothers made a name for themselves by breaking down barriers around men’s mental health using burgers and beer, and now the local charity is changing the hospitality industry from the ground up by implementing a new program for businesses.

The organisation first gained momentum at the start of the pandemic as a judgment-free space for men to have conversations, and general manager Daniel Chin said they had seen that men were not afraid to talk if they were in the right setting.

“It’s about creating a safe space where people can connect first and foremost, and those relationships are built through these other events like going for a walk, going to yoga, barefoot bowls or hangdog,” Daniel said.

Now they hold six community events a month, which 70 to 80 members attend, with as many as 15 first-time recruits at each meeting.

Daniel said while they did offer support for those who needed it, the events weren’t just for times of crisis.

“We get so many guys who might be OK mental health-wise but they may be a bit lonely, or a bit isolated, they might have just moved to the area, they may have just gone through a recent break-up and want to make some new friends, and that’s the beauty of this group – it’s really diverse in need and experience,” he said.

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“Some people come down looking for advice on fatherhood. They’ll just naturally link up with guys who are dads in the group and then there are guys that just want to meet some people to go and play golf with, so they’ll do that as well.”

Now The Barstool Brothers are branching out for the next part of their education program to improve the experience of hospitality workers, particularly that of young or inexperienced employees who may not know how to speak up.

“The course itself is a 90-minute baseline package. It deals a lot with communication around mental health, how to ask the right questions, how to receive answers and be prepared for the answers you may get,” Daniel said.

“It also has a lot to do around psychosocial risk in the workplace and how to identify those risks, how to bring them up in a healthy manner towards management and owners so those people are made aware of a situation within the workplace.

two men standing at bar

The Barstool Brothers co-founder Lachlan Stevens and general manager Daniel Chin.

“Also in the course is a bit of self-care, how to manage stress, spotting signs and symptoms of mental illness in people as well.”

The tailor-made course is designed and run by hospitality workers to best reflect the specific challenges faced by staff in that sector.

“In hospitality, there’s so many pressures that people take for granted,” Daniel said.

”The fact that it’s late hours, it’s predominantly weekends and it’s not a very thankful job, you’re just expected to provide the service.

“When you start working weekends, you start working late nights, you miss out on those really important connections with family and friends, you miss out on big events and birthdays and things like that, so it can have a real big effect on your mental health.”

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The charity ran the first phase of the pilot last year, with the team now expecting to train up to 500 more people over the next eight to 10 weeks.

“We’ve had about six or seven different businesses, from bars to cafes, reach out to us that want to be involved so we’re confident that the more the word gets out, the more people start reaching out to us, and this training is completely free through our pilot study, so that’s why we’re encouraging people to jump on now while it’s free.”

The free pilot phase will wrap up by early October, and by next year the organisation hopes to expand its impact into other areas.

But as the program becomes more widespread, Daniel hoped that industry leaders would pitch in to make sure it was sustainable and accessible for all businesses.

“We hope to still deliver this training for free, for small businesses in particular, with the help of large enterprise,” he said. “We hope that they can see that this is an industry-wide issue and there’s a responsibility from the big guys to help out smaller businesses that can’t afford the time and money that goes into this mental health training.”

For more information, visit The Barstool Brothers’ website.

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