Community and kindness to the fore
The theme of Kindness is central to this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week (MHAW), an annual initiative run by the Mental Health Foundation.
Racing Welfare has used each day this week to focus on different topics, from befriending and prevention of loneliness, to self-care and helping others in the community. The campaign will provide tips and guidance on how engaging with these topics can have a positive impact on your mental health.
Befriending was chosen for the first day, something the charity has been very conscious of from the beginning of the pandemic. Racing Welfare’s team has made over 1,100 check-in calls to over 700 people in racing who are at risk of encountering loneliness and isolation.
Harriet Dukes, Welfare Officer for Malton, said: “As well as contacting all the trainers in our region to support them and their staff, we have been calling all of our retired beneficiaries. We are doing our very best to support them by addressing any issues they may be facing, making sure they are able to get all their essentials and signposting them to any other local services that could be of help.
“It is just great to be able to chat with people who might be feeling lonely during this period of lockdown. We talk about what is happening in the world right now but also about their friends and families and their racing memories.”
The charity had many events planned for the retired racing community before the outbreak but have looked for other ways to continue to build a sense of community, which is crucial to maintain mental wellbeing.
One of the most successful evolutions has been transferring the beneficiary coffee mornings online to Facebook. Weekly ‘Virtual Coffee Mornings’ are now being held on a Thursday at 11 am and a private Facebook group has been built which holds over 145 members from the retired racing community.
The first event was hosted by commentaror Derek Thompson and was a great success and allowed people to come together to share racing memories. A different racing celebrity will be hosting each week and the line-up includes Mike Cattermole, Ed Chamberlain and Richard Hoiles.
Racing Welfare is reaching out to those living in more rural locations or those with mobility difficulties who cannot normally get to events. The level of engagement has shown the positive benefits of these online initiatives and even when lockdown has lifted, online events will continue.