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14 May 2018

Many racing organisations will be active promoting Mental Health Awareness Week, which starts on Monday May 14th. The charity Mind has delivered mental health workshops for the sport and were instrumental in racing signing up to the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation, with signatories from across the industry. Hayley Jarvis, Mind’s Community Programmes Manager for Sport explains more.

We were delighted that racing signed up to the Mental Health Charter, with the BHA, Professional Jockeys’ Association (PJA) and Racing Welfare leading the way. Engagement goes beyond a signature and it was important to identify positive actions that could be taken collectively and by the individual organisations.

Mind has supported over 300 signatories from across the sport and physical activity sector, including cricket, rugby, athletics, swimming and football. We’ve developed initiatives to promote positive mental health, reduce stigma and to ensure that sport develops good policies and practices to support the mental health and wellbeing of all those involved.

We ran workshops at the BHA for a range of participants and the objective was twofold: to identify the breadth of activities that support mental wellbeing across the industry and to instigate a range of initiatives. The PJA Jockey Matters series; mental health awareness training and support given to the Racing Welfare helpline are the outcomes. The helpline is the only one in sport. The collaborative approach had led to a research project by Liverpool John Muir University and the planning of Racing Welfare’s plan for Awareness week.

Racing has a long legacy of supporting the welfare of the horses, with advances in many areas. Addressing the mental wellbeing of everyone is an equally vital task and is the right thing to do. Racing’s duty of care for its own sets the sport up as a model to promote the changing attitudes in society and to raise awareness of mental health problems.

People quite rightly consider the many pressures upon jockeys given the demands of the sport but supporting all the people less in the public glare, is as important. The work riders; stable staff; trainers and race day staff all feel the pressure to deliver and are as susceptible to mental health problems.

Racing is a high pressured environment and my hope is that we achieve parity of esteem between physical and mental health, ensuring that everyone knows where to seek help and support.

I developed my career in the sport and charity sectors, with a background in inclusion. I have personal experience of mental health problems and I am passionate about raising awareness of these through using the power of sport to start up positive conversations.

At Mind, we believe sport can build resilience, support and enable mental health recovery and tackle stigma and discrimination. However, this has to be balanced with the pressures that sport can bring especially in elite settings where risk of injury, impact of making weight, negotiating contracts and dealing with retirement can all impact on mental health. Over the last year this has been reflected through the Duty of Care in Elite Sport report and the recently launched Mental Health in Elite Sport Action Plan. It is a role that I thoroughly enjoy and believe that the sports sector and society has made positive progress over the last three years.

There is still work to be done to normalise conversations about mental health and to ensure people get the help and support they require. Racing is well on the way.

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