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Mental Health Resources for Restaurant People

Dahlia snaiderman

Dahlia SnaidermanAuthor

The restaurant industry is experiencing the most challenging period it’s ever faced. Workers have been facing reduced hours and reduced pay, and many have been laid off as their restaurants close their doors, at least temporarily. 

Restaurant owners and operators have been faced with extremely difficult decisions, continually balancing the fate of their businesses and supporting their staff. The strain this crisis has put on everyone in the industry is incalculable — both on the physical and mental health fronts.

Unfortunately, many people working in the restaurant industry don’t have health insurance or wellness benefits of any kind. We spoke with an expert, Aida Manduley, a therapist based in Boston, and collected some resources for you to turn to during these times. 

“Know that what's going on right now is grief (and anticipatory grief) on a massive scale,” said Manduley. “Your mental health will likely be variable at this time and that's normal, even when it feels crappy.”

Know that what's going on right now is grief (and anticipatory grief) on a massive scale. Your mental health will likely be variable at this time and that's normal, even when it feels crappy.

Aida Manduley

While this crisis affects everyone a little differently, it’s crucial to take care of your mental health during this time. Whether you’re a restaurant worker who has been laid off, a delivery driver who is on the front lines, or a business owner who’s trying to do the best they can for their team, there are some small steps you can take to lighten the emotional and mental load that comes from coping with the current chaos around us.

You can also download the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Agency’s booklet on coping during an outbreak here

If you struggle with addiction or alcoholism, reach out to Ben’s Friends or join one of their weekly Zoom support calls. 

And if you’re in crisis, scroll down to the bottom where we’ve listed hotlines that you can call for immediate support. 

Find an Affordable Counselor or Therapist

“Reach out for your mental health to resources like hotlines, peer support, and/or licensed therapists,” said Manduley. “Many do tele-health services and some are offering discounted support and brief treatment because of the outbreak.”

Manduley created a guide on how to find an affordable therapist here — if you’re not in the Boston area, scroll down in the document to find national resources.

Additionally, this group of therapists is offering reduced-cost virtual sessions accessible to anyone in the US.

If you’ve never done therapy before, it might feel awkward or strange at first, but know that you’re there to gain coping strategies from an impartial person who is there to help and support you, and never judge you. 

Another option for low-cost therapy is Talkspace, an app where you can be matched with a therapist that provides counselling through text. Plans start at $65 a week, and they’re currently offering $100 off for new users. Even if you just need to try it out for this month and then cancel, it’s a worthy investment if you can swing it.  

If you have insurance, you also can use your provider’s website to find a therapist in your local area.

Organize Your To-Dos & Get Paperwork Out of the Way

It’s helpful to focus on things you can control in this time, advises Manduley. 

If you’re applying for unemployment assistance, check out this post that details the process. 

Tear the band-aid off as soon as you can and get the paperwork done and submitted. It’ll make the process go more smoothly, and that big to-do won’t be looming over your days at home. 

If you’re looking at a long list of administrative to-dos, break them up with walks and other social-distancing-friendly activities. Make a list of priorities and stick it on your fridge or your mirror, and cross them off as you get them done over the course of a week or two. 

Stay Social 

“Stay socially connected,” said Manduley. “Whether that's video-calls with friends, online role playing games with strangers, a virtual happy hour at the end of the week, whatever. Just make sure you're not sitting alone with yourself and ruminating all day.”

Get Some Fresh Air

“Make sure that you don't stay cooped up inside 24/7. Trust me on this. The effects of isolation and containment are bad, and they can sneak up on you,” said Manduley.

If you’re in an area without a stay-in-place order, taking short walks outside is extremely helpful. If you’re in an area with a stay-in-place order, open your windows and blinds, let some sunlight in, and ventilate your house. 

"Drink Some Water, Take Your Meds, Call Your Person"

This advice comes from the hugely popular podcast Another Round, which ran from 2015-2017. Hosts Tracey Clayton and Heben Nigatu ended each episode with, “drink some water, take your meds, call your person.” It’s excellent advice that can be boiled down to just taking good care of yourself. 

It’s important to give your body what it needs to be healthy, and that includes hydrating. When you’re sitting at home, it can be pretty easy to forget to drink water. Have a glass nearby at all times. 

If you take any kind of medication, call your insurance provider (if you have one) and your doctor to see if you can get a 90-day supply instead of 30-day. Some pharmacies are offering free delivery — see if your local pharmacy is one of them.

And in terms of “call your person,” reach out to people you love. Do it a lot. Ask for help, and give help as much as you can. Even if it’s just to watch a TV show together with the Netflix Party browser extension, as Manduley said, having some kind of social contact is crucial during these times. Set up a time to chat with your former coworkers, and check in on each other frequently. They’re probably looking for someone to talk to as well. 

Keep Yourself Busy

If you’re used to the constant buzz that is working in a restaurant, it could help to try and stay busy at home during this time. Cook as much as you can (or want to). Write down your thoughts. Deep-clean your house. Organize your clothes. Reach out to your neighbors and see how you can pool resources if needed. Take up sewing or doodling or painting. Catch up on TV shows you haven’t had time to watch in years. 

Listen to a (Non-Restaurants-Related) Podcast

There are over 800,000 active podcasts out there these days, and there’s as many types of podcasts as there are types of movies or TV shows. Browse the iTunes charts for a podcast that sounds good to you and give it a shot. Try some comedy podcasts, or search the database for an actor or writer you like and see if they’ve guested on any shows. 

Move Your Body 

Endorphins are no joke. Whether it’s an online yoga class or an online punk rock aerobics class, or a fitness challenge with push-ups and burpees, do whatever workout you find fun and move your body. There are tons of free workouts on YouTube. You might feel silly at first, but give it a few minutes and the endorphins will swoop in and improve your mood.

Virtual dance parties with friends are also highly recommended.


Apps like Headspace and Calm have free versions that you can use to try out meditation. Some meditations focus on your breath and feeling sensations throughout your body, while others can help you fall asleep if you’re feeling anxious.

Meditation advocate Deepak Chopra has also partnered with Oprah to create a 21-day meditation challenge that’s free to participate in, and is tailored to the tough times we’re going through right now. 

Even if you weave in and out of focus, even if it feels woo-woo or useless at first, spending just a few minutes just focusing on your breath can really help — especially if you make a habit of it. 

See How You Can Help Others, or Seek Help

Check out these links that Manduley shared with us that aggregate all the mutual aid projects going on across the country, state by state. If you’re doing ok, helping others can feel amazing and productive during these difficult times. If you’re in need of help, you can reach out to those who are organizing aid in your city.

If You’re in Crisis, Call a Hotline 

SAMHSA (Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration) has a Disaster Distress Helpline you can reach at 1-800-985-5990. You can also text “TalkWithUs” to 66746. For support in Spanish, Call 1-800-985-5990 and press "2". From the 50 States, text “Hablanos” to 66746. From Puerto Rico, text “Hablanos” to 1-787-339-2663.

National Suicide Prevention Lifeline can be reached at 1-800-273-8255. On their website, they also have live chat options.

If you’re forced to isolate in an unsafe situation, there’s the National Domestic Violence Hotline which can be reached at 1-800-799-7233 or via online chat.

Samaritans Hope Hotline can be reached via call or text at (877) 870-HOPE (4673). 

Pieta House Self-Harm/Suicide Hotline can be reached at 1 800 247 247 or by texting “Help” to 51444.

Trans Lifeline can be reached at 877-565-8860. The LGBT National Hotline can be reached at 888-843-4564.

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