Access to drugs making NI mental health crisis worse, says hotelier

Access to drugs making NI mental health crisis worse, says hotelier

The owner of Bangor’s Salty Dog Hotel and Boat House restaurant has told LCN he believes easy access to drugs in Northern Ireland is exacerbating mental problems in the hospitality industry.

Ken Sharp, who has seen first-hand how the issue has impacted his business, said: “I’ve talked to colleagues across the water and my gut feeling is that it is a Northern Ireland problem… and that’s access to drugs.

“It’s cocaine for uppers, weed for downers. There’s a lot of it about, it is pervasive. The problem in Northern Ireland in particular is it is very easy to access and the gangs who sell it seem to be willing to give it away for free at first to get their hooks into the people.”

In a bid to try to help those affected and end the stigma around mental Ken has now become an ambassador for The Burnt Chef Project.

Set up in May 2019 by businessman Kris Hall, it aims to get help for those suffering and eradicate the stigma surrounding mental health issues, and Ken has a particular reason for getting on board.

‘The historic culture is borderline aggresive’

“One of the reasons I got into this is that in the last three years two of my chefs have died from drug overdoses,” he explained.

“If you are a young chef your shift doesn’t start until 10am so you are not out of bed until 9am and you can’t get a doctor on the phone after that. If you do get an appointment, you get one on Friday afternoon in the middle of service and it ends up being easier to self-medicate with Buckfast and cocaine

“It takes you five months to get to counselling and the drugs without counselling are useless in my opinion.

“The historic culture (in hospitality)  is vert much ‘man up – get over it’, crude, jocular and borderline aggressive. It has a very macho reputation

“There is the pressure of service too. It’s like the performing arts and there is a lot of pressure each night from the kitchen, the customers, from management and it is relentless in that it is there every day.

“You won’t get a chef calling The Samaritans or Mind, but you will get them texting the Burnt Chef support service because they don’t see it being what it is.”

Read more in the upcoming edition of Licensed and Catering News 

If you are  looking to talk to someone about mental health please use any of the numbers below 24/7 and in complete confidence.

Text ‘BURNTCHEF’ to 85258 (UK) or call via freephone 0800 915 4610 or by email​All calls and emails answered by counsellors and clinically trained psychotherapists.