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Every day, hundreds of sick and injured patients walk into free and charitable clinics around the Tampa Bay area in need of a doctor.Many are suffering from chronic conditions, such as diabetes or high blood pressure. Some patients were referred to the clinics by staff at hospitals where they landed after years of neglecting to care for treatable conditions.The clinics allow the patients to pay what they can, or nothing at all. They are staffed by doctors and nurses who volunteer their time. They survive off donations and small grants.Many of the patients have jobs but they are living paycheck to paycheck. None have health insurance, either because they do not qualify for Medicaid or can’t afford private coverage. For these patients, the clinics are often their only option for primary care.

Kush Restaurant Starts Dialogue About Mental Health In Hospitality

Humanity in Hospitality is an event designed to start a dialogue about mental health.
Daniel Murphy
The Florida Channel
Leon County Judge John Cooper on June 30, 2022, in a screen grab from The Florida Channel.

Florida's $67 billion tourism industry relies on its workforce to provide sunny hospitality, but people who work in the service industry suffer from disproportionately high rates of depression and substance abuse.

This week, a Miami restaurant group wants to start a dialogue about what that means for people who make a career in hospitality.

"We're looking to de-stigmatize mental health issues in the industry," says Cameron Camacho, general manger at the Wynwood restaurant Kush, which is hosting Humanity in Hospitality on Wednesday evening at 7:00. The forum features industry veterans and a licensed counselor who will lead a conversation about mental health. Resources will be available for people who are struggling.

While the difficult hours, high stress, and easy access to alcohol and drugs can pose a risk for anyone's mental health, Camacho points out South Florida's hospitality scene is under an acute pressure to meet the bacchanalian expectations of the tourism industry.

"Wild parties, massive amounts of cocaine… If you have to present a party life to make a living, what else can you do?" she says.

Camacho says the forum is in part a response to the June suicide of Anthony Bourdain. The beloved chef publicly chronicled his experiences with substance abuse and mental illness, and his death, says Camacho, shook her industry to the core.

"We were looking around going, 'why?' without any answers. We discovered that we have to find them ourselves, and the best way to do that is to prepare an open dialogue," she says.

Starting the difficult conversation about not being okay, says Camacho, is a way to honor Bourdain:

"He wasn't afraid to say anything. We have to make sure that we're keeping a community of people that aren't afraid to say, 'I need help.'"

You can find more details at the Kush Hospitality Eventbrite page.

RESOURCESIf you or someone you know is having thoughts of suicide, you can call the suicide hotline 24 hours a day at 800-273-8255.

Resources and support for preventing suicide can be found  here.

Copyright 2020 WLRN 91.3 FM. To see more, visit WLRN 91.3 FM.

Sammy Mack
Public radio. Public health. Public policy.