Today (10 October) is World Mental Health Day. Peter Ducker FIH, chief executive, Institute of Hospitality, provides some guidance for hotel workers and hospitality managers
Hotel workers may have to confront mental health problems amongst their guests. Sudden deaths and suicides often affect employees in the rail industry, the emergency, police and mental health services, and also the hotel industry to a lesser degree. The impact of sudden deaths and attempted suicides on all who come into contact with them should not be underestimated.
Many hotels have developed policies and procedures to address a sudden death on their premises. As with all policies, managers, duty managers and supervisors should be trained in the policy, which should be communicated to line staff and incorporated into the employee handbook. One primary contact should be responsible for managing an incident: securing the site until police arrive, interacting with emergency services; caring for affected staff, guests and witnesses; documenting the incident and responding to media enquiries.
Employees who have close or regular contact with guests should be made aware of the following guest behaviours that could indicate a potential suicide. The guest:
- Books in alone yet lives locally
- Has visible signs of self-harm
- Shows signs of excessive alcohol or drug use
- Does not have any luggage
- May spend extravagantly in a short space of time
- Does not leave his or her room for an evening meal and does not order room service
- Does not appear for breakfast and does not check out in the morning
Distressed guests should be offered the services of a doctor or put in touch with the Samaritans (Tel: UK 08457 909090) who also offer training for managers and supervisors. A risk assessment of your property can determine if there are potentially lethal sites conducive to the more common methods of suicide such as roof terraces and unsecured upper windows. As many suicides are done on impulse, the limiting of opportunity may deter an attempt and could save a life. A consultation with a health and safety officer, risk manager and insurance provider should provide further insight.
But it is not just guests who may exhibit mental health problems. Managers need to be aware of mental health issues amongst their own teams.
Disorders such as anxiety and depression affect approximately one million people in the UK and given the large numbers of people in the hospitality sector, it is likely that some of them may work in your organisation.
Many people with mental health issues are afraid to tell their employers about their problems for fear of being stigmatised or even losing their jobs. While employers aren’t expected to provide all the answers, an open and supportive environment can make all the difference to the employee who is suffering.
Employers should keep an eye on staff performance and wellness. If an employee exhibits any mental health issues, it is imperative to address the matter when it arises because there will be a greater chance of preventing the employee’s health from deteriorating. The warning signs are varied but might include mood swings, poor performance, self-harm, looking or feeling ‘jumpy’, changes in eating or sleeping habits; or uncharacteristically energetic, creative and sociable behaviour.
To deal with mental health problems employers should aim to focus on the person, not the problem, and ask if they need short-term adjustments to their working environment or pattern.
If you are still unsure about how mental health issues affect your business’s bottom line, try the Government’s Workplace Wellbeing Tool to work out the costs of poor employee health to your organisation. Employers can use the tool, which is in the form of an Excel spreadsheet, to calculate the annual cost of employee ill health; absence from work and staff turnover; to create business cases for workplace health and wellbeing initiatives, and to estimate the return on investment of setting up a health and wellbeing programme.