Southern Smoke Foundation Announces Partnership with LSU Psychological Services Center to Expand Mental Health Program
Free mental health counseling is now provided to food and beverage workers in Louisiana, California, Illinois, New York, and Texas.
BATON ROUGE – It’s a new day for many food and beverage workers across several states, including Louisiana, as they now have access to no-cost mental health counseling.
Southern Smoke Foundation, a 501c3 nonprofit crisis relief organization for food and beverage (F+B) industry workers nationwide, is proud to announce “Behind You.” a re-branding of its mental health program that offers accessibility of mental health services to F+B workers across the country. The primary initiative of Behind You. is a university affiliate program providing no-cost mental health counseling to F+B workers and their children through university partnerships in California, Illinois, Louisiana, Texas, and as of March 2023, New York. In Louisiana, Behind You. is partnering with the LSU Psychological Services Center (PSC), an on-campus unit of the Department of Psychology in the LSU College of Humanities & Social Sciences.
In kitchens nationwide, workers know that when they hear "Behind you," someone is close by. In that spirit, Behind You. is the first mental health program of its kind for F+B and by F+B. It represents a major step forward in providing resources and support for the mental health needs of industry workers nationwide. While Southern Smoke expands Behind You. to more states, it stresses that those who live outside of the service states can receive financial assistance for mental health crises through its Emergency Relief Fund.
“It’s very important to recognize and acknowledge that this is a problem in our industry,” Southern Smoke Founding Director and James Beard award-winning chef Chris Shepherd said. “We need to stand up and say there’s a problem, and we need to encourage people in our industry to talk to someone because it doesn’t help anyone just to hold everything inside. It’s time for a change—we’ve lost too many people in our industry. We want to make mental health resources accessible to encourage as many people as possible to take advantage of counseling services.”
The idea of creating a mental health program began in 2018 after the passing of celebrated chef, author, and media personality Anthony Bourdain. In response to his suicide and its impact on the culinary world, Southern Smoke gathered some of the brightest and most talented individuals in American F+B to talk about the mental health crisis plaguing their industry and ways to help from within.
As plans developed, the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020 escalated the urgent need for mental health counseling within the industry, and overall brought a new sense of acceptance and awareness to the growing needs of its workers. But while the demand for services was at an all-time high, accessibility to affordable mental health care did not exist. As a result, Southern Smoke’s university affiliate program was created, and through a partnership with the University of Houston and Mental Health America, the nonprofit launched a mental health program in Texas providing no-cost mental health counseling for Texas-based workers and their children. Workers who previously could not afford or find time to address their mental health now had an answer.
The Texas program—through which the organization has facilitated more than 2,000 counseling sessions to date—served as a model for Southern Smoke’s nationwide expansion
plans under Behind You. In each state, the organization awards graduate-level grants to its partner universities, and those funds are distributed to students seeking a career in mental health care. Individuals seeking counseling for conditions such as anxiety, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder, suicidality, child- and family-related problems, and
neurodevelopmental disorders will apply through Southern Smoke, who will then refer them to the university based on their state. All counseling sessions are supervised by a licensed professional.
Southern Smoke Foundation seeks to spread awareness of Behind You. nationwide, as well as receive financial support to launch new partner states and continue service in existing areas. Please visit https://southernsmoke.org if you would like to support the program financially or sign up for mental health assistance. Behind You. was created with generous support from BentoBox; Love, Tito’s; ROAR (Restaurants Organizing Advocating Rebuilding); and Robert M. Sinskey Foundation.
About Southern Smoke Foundation
Founded in 2015 by James Beard award-winning chef Chris Shepherd, Southern Smoke Foundation supports members of the food and beverage (F+B) industry in crisis nationwide
through emergency relief funding and access to mental health services. To-date, Southern Smoke Foundation has provided more than $10.4M in grants to food and beverage workers in need. Through its mental health program, Behind You., the nonprofit provides no-cost mental health counseling to F+B workers and their children in California, Louisiana, Illinois, New York and Texas, and offers financial assistance to those seeking mental health care outside of the current service states.
About the LSU College of Humanities & Social Sciences
The LSU College of Humanities & Social Sciences positions students, faculty, and staff to be visionary leaders in their respective fields, a tradition of excellence that began with the college’s inception in 1908. For more news and information about the LSU College of Humanities & Social Sciences, visit hss.lsu.edu.
Contact Sarah Gaar Keller
LSU College of Humanities & Social Sciences