Mental Health in Horseracing
Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem, yet it is still something the majority of us are loath to talk about or address. In a recent study by Liverpool John Moores University and Racing Welfare, feeling the need to “appear strong” in front of colleagues and peers was one of the biggest single causes for those in the racing industry to avoid seeking help for their mental health.
Click to Open Research
Why might this be?
The all-encompassing lifestyle of racing is continually spoken about within the sector. While this sense of purpose might bring positivity it has also been known to bring with it symptoms of stress, anxiety and depression, compounding potential mental health outcomes such as insomnia, isolation, alcoholism, self-harm and low self esteem. Despite this and increasing national awareness of male mental health there still seems to be a reluctance for people within this industry to seek help. According to the study, over 40% cent of riders felt there was a perceived social stigma of being viewed negatively for using mental health services.
In the study over 85% of jockeys reported they had experienced stress, anxiety or depression over the past 12 months. The common stress factors for this included:
Finding rides; also fear of injury given the frequency of jockey falls.
Maintaining the appearance of success; a sport of extreme highs and lows and one that faces lots of criticism making it both a mentally and physically demanding sport.
Long drives to and from the races
Weight issues /Body image; Trying to keep fit and physically and mentally strong while trying to maintain my weight is tough for jockeys. Lack of food, excessive sauna use, dehydration all takes their toll on mental health.
For trainers, the study showed that over 70% had experienced stress, anxiety or depression over the past 12 months. The common stresss factors included:
Bad debts from owners
Stable Staff and Stud Workers
Over 70% of stable staff and stud workers had experienced stress, anxiety or depression in the last 12 months. Long working hours and hard work in sometimes awful weather conditions, stable staff always have to put the horses needs first. Without them there would be no racing and they are relied upon to work antisocial hours to meet the demands of the sport. Various recommendations were made to address the key stress factors including, careers advice, jockey coaching, a peer support system and financial advice.
What can be done?
The British Horseracing Authority (BHA) has reaffirmed its commitment to tackling mental health problems in sport by announcing the appointment of the mental health charity Mind as an advisory body to assist the sport achieving its commitments to the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation.
The six core areas of the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation are:
Use the sport to promote good mental health and wellbeing
Adopt good mental health policies and best practices
Appoint ambassadors and role models
Tackle discrimination on the grounds of mental health
Support a pan-sport platform to develop and share resources and best practice
Regular monitoring of our performance
As a direct result of Racing Welfare's research with John Moores University, it has been recommended that there should be a review of the racing fixture list in relation to the workforce capacity it services. It noted that, "racing is a relentless industry which, for many, has intensified over the last number of years. Such a pace may be unsustainable psychologically for a number of sectors and individuals within the racing fraternity."
Other recommendations included a review of injury and pain management systems in relation to mental health, inclusive provision beyond the racing centres, risk assessments relating to workplace stress, plus increased awareness and support around working time regulations.
Racing Welfare also offers five steps on how to improve someone's personal wellbeing which can be found here.
If your mental or emotional state feels uncertain help is available from the industry specific organisations listed below. Please also visit our helpline page for a list of other organisations that are there to help and share the load. The important thing is to open up and access the support as early possible, long before you reach a point of crisis. Remember, you don’t have to struggle by yourself - good help is available.
Worried about someone?
A campaign was recently launched by Time to Change called 'In Your Corner'.The idea behind the campaign was to encourage men and women to recognise that looking out for each other is part of being a good mate.
If you think someone is struggling then don't be afraid to reach out to them. Ask if they are okay. And if they say say they are fine then don't be afraid to ask twice. Listen and don't judge. Mental health problems can be overwhelming but thankfully there is more and more help available. Help them make contact with one of the organisations listed below. The Racing Welfare Association runs a helpline for anyone who is involved in racing. For professional jockeys the Professional Jockey's Association runs a dedicated helpline with specialist advice and support.
Where to get help:
24hr Helpline 0800 6300 443
Text 0786 0079 043 or LIVE CHAT here
Asking for help with mental health and wellbeing can be hard at first, but Racing Welfare offer a range of contact methods through Racing’s Support Line to ensure that people can get in touch in a way that they find most comfortable. Racing welfare is there for all of racing's people throughout their lives.
The Professional Jockeys Association
CALL (UK) 0844 800 6873
CALL (International) +44 (0) 1373 858080
The PJA confidential helpline has been set up in partnership with Cognacity for jockeys who would like to talk to a professional counsellor and therapist in absolute confidence. Cognacity are recognised as the UK’s leading provider of confidential counselling in elite / professional sport covering Football, Cricket, Rugby Union, Rugby League, Rowing, Athletics and Racing.
If you are struggling with a personal issue such as drink, drugs or gambling dependency, family issues, bereavement, depression or anything else that may be affecting your race riding and your life in general, help is just a phone call away.
MIND Infoline 0300 123 3393 (9am - 6pm Monday - Friday)
A confidential information and support line
CALL 116 123
Samaritans is available round the clock, every single day of the year, for anyone who is struggling to cope. You can call Samaritans for free from any phone, email them, or visit their website to find details ofyour nearest branch.