Kitchener-Waterloo

Dedicated mental health supports on the way for region's hospitality and tourism workforce

A six-month pilot program will allow workers in the region's hospitality and tourism sector to connect with staff trained in financial planning and mental health therapy.  Carizon Family and Community Services is the organization that will run the program starting June 1.

Carizon says demand for services up 25 per cent during pandemic with more complex needs

Canadians have seen their stress levels increase since the onset of the pandemic. Waterloo region's hospitality and tourism workforce will soon have access to their own mental health resources and supports. (Credit: iStock/Getty Images)

Waterloo region's hospitality and tourism workforce will soon have access to dedicated mental health resources and supports.

A six-month pilot program will allow workers in those sectors to connect with staff trained in financial planning and mental health therapy. 

"We knew we had to do something extra for the hospitality and tourism group because not only would it be mental health challenges, but there would be financial challenges as well," said Lisa Akey, director of counselling at Carizon Family and Community Services, the organization that will run the program starting June 1.

Carizon has had credit counsellors as part of their services for several years, Akey said, which eased the creation of the program.

"We thought it would be a good project to partner with the region and Explore Waterloo Region to be able to provide a service that at least addressed those two challenges."

She said the program will also benefit workers that may not have benefits that cover mental health counselling or therapy.

Demand for mental health supports are up

Akey said demand for mental health services have been up 25 per cent throughout the pandemic with more urgent and complex needs.

Akey adds staff also noticed more people from the hospitality and tourism sectors requesting same day counselling services.

A mental health survey with YMCA WorkWell also found their mental health and well-being needs were much higher than the general population, Akey says.

Results showed workers in the hospitality and tourism sector were below average when it came to health, mental health, well-being and financial health.

Jody Palubiski, a partner with Charcoal Group of Restaurants in the region including Charcoal Steakhouse, Beertown and Wildcraft, says there's been "some very real mental health issues" for workers.

"We're dealing with people who may have only worked five months of the last 14 and seemed to have been forgotten in all this," Palubiski said.

Charcoal Group had to put more than 950 staff on leave at the start of the pandemic. The restaurants have gradually rehired most of their staff back, he said, but had to put some of that on hold this past March when the province's stay-at-home order came into effect.

"Just when we had an opportunity to open back up in March, we had hired across the board over 100 people that we were getting ready to train but we had to hold that off as well," he said.

Akey said the program will hopefully help people navigate their mental health and guide them in their financial recovery.

She said the pilot will run until December, with the possibility of extending the program depending on demand.

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