an open letter
Dear Chicago Style Community,
We’d like to address the mental health panel that took place at this year’s conference.
As an organization, Chicago Style takes mental health very seriously, and we were disappointed in the content and direction of the panel discussion “It’s OK not to be OK: An Introductory Exploration of Mental Health Issues in the Hospitality Community.” The discussion was intended to be an exploration of common issues affecting hospitality workers and an introduction to some of the resources currently available in Chicago and beyond. Despite our intentions, this conversation was not constructive and the dialogue was centered on what we believe to be unhealthy talking points.
We invited Jonny Boucher, owner of A Sip of Hope, to join the panel. A Sip of Hope is a coffee shop in Chicago that donates 100% of its proceeds to Hope for the Day, an organization working toward suicide prevention. Jonny has done valuable work in our community that was, unfortunately, not translated to this panel.
As organizers of this conference, we want to extend an apology. While our intention is never to create a space that could be potentially emotionally unsafe, that day our intentions did not match our desired impact.
We started off Chicago Style by talking about community, safety, accountability, and seeing one another. We are sending this message to be accountable to you, our community. This was a teaching moment for us, and one we plan to grow from. Here’s how:
Because we don’t feel that the conversation was productive or supportive — and at times, bordered on harmful — we are not going to be posting a video of the panel discussion on our website.
We are currently working with moderator Mony Bunni and the Support Staff organization to schedule a new panel discussion focused on productive steps our community can take to support themselves and one another, and spotlighting specific mental health resources currently available in our city and beyond.
In the future, whenever Chicago Style addresses mental health topics, we will ensure there are mental health professionals onsite to field questions and provide support.
We appreciate all of you and your bravery to graciously call us in. We hear you and we look forward to the opportunity to show our growth from this experience.
Shelby, Sharon, and Caitlin