Smart Serve Ontario Launches Free Mental-Health Services Campaign

Smart Serve Ontario Campaign Logo

TORONTO — Smart Serve Ontario is taking a crucial step towards improving mental health in the hospitality industry with the launch of its new campaign called Smart Serve Cares. Delivered in partnership with Not 9 to 5, a non-profit that advocates for the mental health of hospitality workers, and GreenShield, Canada’s only national non-profit health-and-benefits company, the program will provide free mental-health services and education to individuals holding an active Smart Serve certificate.

Canada’s foodservice industry is facing a post-pandemic strain. With many businesses operating at a loss and burdened by debt, the well-being of hospitality workers, often facing high burnout rates, is at risk. The timely initiative aims to bring awareness to the significant mental health and substance-use challenges faced by those working in hospitality and offer meaningful support to hospitality professionals.

“The hospitality industry is at a critical juncture,” says Gyan Chandra, Board Chair, Smart Serve Ontario. “The industry has faced unrelenting pressure, triggering a concerning rise in mental health and substance-use challenges among hospitality workers. By partnering with innovative non-profit organizations such as Not 9 to 5 and GreenShield, we’re strategically connecting leading experts in both the hospitality and health sectors to deliver critical resources and solutions to an industry in dire need of support. Together, we can create meaningful change and build a more resilient hospitality workforce.”

Research conducted by Not 9 to 5 reveals 87 per cent of front-line food-and-beverage staff report experiencing burnout, with depression and anxiety affecting 77 per cent and 84 per cent, respectively. Despite these alarming figures, only 38 per cent seek professional help, often citing financial constraints as a major roadblock.

The Smart Serve Cares campaign aims to bridge this gap by offering Smart Serve certificate holders a comprehensive suite of mental-health resources, including three hours of free virtual mental-health counselling with a therapist provided by GreenShield Health; online access to GreenShield’s self-guided Digital CBT, a program that uses Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) and interactive learning modules to help people with anxiety and depression achieve their wellness goals; and unlimited access to online resources, articles and educational materials from health experts via GreenShield+.

“Psychologically safe workplaces support a productive workforce. Investing in hospitality mental-health programs benefits staff, employers and clients, and ultimately costs less than doing nothing. Participation in these programs fosters a healthier, more effective workplace and improves the industry’s overall well-being and growth,” says Hassel Aviles, executive director, Not 9 to 5. “With Smart Serve Cares, the industry now has access to resources at no cost to hospitality employers and employees alike.”

Smart Serve certificate holders will also gain access to Not 9 to 5’s transformative online hospitality workplace mental-health certification, CNECT.ed. This self-guided certification program equips participants with skills and education on psychological safety, harm reduction practices and leadership, specifically designed to address the unique mental health and substance-use challenges faced within the hospitality industry.

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