During his 28 years at Newton Abbot, MD Pat Masterson has built up a strong relationship with the local community. Last year the course hosted the sport’s first Mental Health Awareness Raceday. Read why and how they did it, and why they’re doing it again this year.
Why Mental Health?
Two thirds of people will experience a mental health problem in their lifetime, with one in four expected to experience a problem this year. Startling facts. This is a growing problem which, as time goes on, is only becoming more apparent in the media. Despite this, there remains a stigma around admitting a mental health problem. We recognise that this is one of the most important issues and as an industry, we must do more.
How did the raceday come about?
As a key pillar in the community, at Newton Abbot Racecourse we felt that more should be done to help tackle mental health on a local level. Our fixture on May 16th was dedicated to raising awareness of mental health issues and the support available: it was coordinated to support Mental Health Awareness Week.
We were keen to involve a local Mind branch (Plymouth & District Mind) and Racing Welfare to maximise our joint efforts.
The day was an opportunity for friends, family or colleagues to open up in a neutral, relaxed environment about things that may be concerning them. Half the battle, it seems, is to remove some of the stigma that is attached to mental health, and to highlight that people are not alone.
Planning was key to the Day
Part of the marketing campaign in the run-up to the day included highlighting mental health facts and statistics. Focusing on the ‘1 in 4’ mental health message, a competition was run via the racecourse’s marketing database and its social media channels for one person to win four tickets to the raceday. These posts received over 45,000 impressions and a permanent page has been dedicated to Mental Health on Newton Abbot’s website, signposting local support networks.
Making a splash
During the raceday, racing-related messages were interspersed with ‘top tips’ on how to tackle mental health problems and advertised on the big screen. Teams from both Mind and Racing Welfare were there in person and each had a sponsored race and associated branding at the racecourse to raise brand awareness amongst racegoers. Media coverage included interviews on local radio stations and At the Races.
In post-raceday feedback over 60% of visitors reported increased awareness of the number of people affected by mental health issues, and importantly, the support available.
Going bigger and better for this year’s raceday
We have already been in touch with Plymouth Mind to agree our plans for this year. We want to expand further to create a lasting legacy and to help tackle the growing problem of mental health problems locally (September 2018 Devon Live – the main digital hub for Devon news – reported on the growing problem of mental health and increasing male suicide rates in the region).
Mental health problems have no boundaries and can affect people from all walks of life; as such, we want to create an initiative that communicates with both sides of the racing world on a raceday – the racing public via Mind and racing professionals through Racing Welfare.