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17 May 2018

Nigel Haizelden’s day job with the BHA has put him on the front line of veterinary care, and having seen the effects of mental health problems on friends and colleagues, he had no hesitation in taking on the role of a BHA Mental Health Champion.

I love my job as a member of the BHA’s Equine Health & Welfare’s Veterinary Officer team. I’ve been fortunate to work with racehorses in my equine practice for 30 years, and am also involved in training vets and emergency service personnel at animal rescue incidents.

In 2016, the BHA became a signatory to the Mental Health Charter for Sport & Recreation. This aims to use the power of sport to contribute to good mental health by encouraging physical activity, and social engagement; and also to promote good practice around mental well-being, tackle discrimination, and reduce misunderstanding and stigma attached to mental health problems.

These are all very well-intentioned words but action is what is important. About a year ago I became a Champion. No… not an elite athlete, or even winner of the local pub quiz, but a BHA Mental Health Champion. I am proud to be one of five Champions we currently have nationwide.

The group has met to discuss practical ways to ensure mental health – like physical health – becomes a normal discussion across the business and we see our role as being able to signpost help and advice. I hope we are effective as a driving force as these issues are so important.

Mental health issues touch so many, and stories can go untold until it is too late. Being a Mental Health Champion enables me to raise awareness amongst my colleagues and hopefully allow those needing help to have that first difficult conversation.

Why me? Well, sadly I belong to a profession whose suicide rate is four times the national average. I have seen real the effects of mental health problems on people close to me. Every one of us will know many affected people, possibly without realising it, since one in four of us will suffer some sort of mental ill-health each year, rising to two in every three over our lifetimes.

This statistic is worryingly on the increase and at current rates depression will be the leading cause of illness in the UK by 2030. Sadly, 16 people in the UK end their lives every day – that is one every 1.5 hours. People are reluctant to admit to it or talk about it – we must change this urgently.

Mental health problems are estimated to cost the economy a staggering £105b per year, which is about two-thirds of what we spend on the NHS or on pensions.

Research shows that depression decreases the ability to recover from physical disease as well as causing the pain of stress and anxiety, plus dealing with stigma and discrimination.

This Mental Health Awareness week focuses on stress and it’s great to see so many organisations and people getting involved.

Join the Mental Health Foundation “Thunderclap” to find out more and support the work being done. Wear your green ribbon to help raise awareness : MHAW link

Help us raise awareness, and start those difficult conversations. It might just save someone’s life.

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