The Charter was launched in March 2015 by the Sport and Recreation Alliance, alongside the Professional Players Federation and with support from the mental health charity, Mind. It sets out how sport can use its collective power to tackle mental ill-health and the stigma that surrounds it.
The Racing industry already provides substantial support to its participants in terms of wellbeing and mental health. Racing Welfare provides a 24 hour support line for those who work in the industry and the network of welfare officers employed by the sport has grown substantially in recent years. The Professional Jockeys Association – who are already signatories to the Charter – launched a Confidential Counselling Helpline in partnership with Cognacity last year. As well as the helpline, PJA members also receive six free face-to-face therapy sessions, in addition to the support jockeys past and present get from the Injured Jockeys Fund and their team of almoners. The BHA has also recently recruited a dedicated Welfare Development Manager, Matt Mancini, with a remit for delivering a participant welfare strategy.
However, mental health is a serious matter for any industry, with on average 1 in 4 people affected. As such, Mr Mancini has been tasked to deliver a full implementation plan to meet the Mental Health Charter’s six core areas, which include: adopting good mental health policies and practices; appointing ambassadors and role models; tackling discrimination on the grounds of mental health; and supporting a pan-sport platform to develop and share resources and best practice.
To coincide with the signing of the Charter, and to reflect its importance to horseracing and all sport and recreation, the BHA has issued the following mission statement around mental health:
“British Horseracing aims to support its participants through a variety of welfare services and specialist facilities to enhance the health and wellbeing of those who help to make the sport what it is.
“The British Horseracing Authority recognises the responsibility to the workforce and the communities that it operates in and is committed to raising awareness around mental health, both internally and amongst stakeholders. We will work closely with partners to communicate the good work already going on in this area, lead and support the development of new innovative initiatives and take action across the six key areas of the charter.”
In signing the Charter, the BHA and Racing Welfare join some of the country’s biggest sports organisations, including The FA, Lawn Tennis Association, Rugby Football Union, English Cricket Board and UK Athletics – alongside the PJA – in declaring responsibility to create a welcoming, inclusive and positive environment for everyone to participate in sport and recreation, encourage people to talk about mental health and support people to seek help and support when needed.
Matt Mancini, Welfare Development Manager for the BHA, said:
“Racing has a lot to be proud about in terms of the support which it gives its participants, illustrated by the forward-thinking nature of the PJA and Racing Welfare in their development of 24 hour support lines for those within the industry. Our vision for British Racing is quite simply to be seen as a force for good. Our community engagement strategy, Racing Together, takes the best of what our industry offers and uses it to focus on the issues that matter most to our communities. A core objective of our programme is to be recognised as a sport that cares for its people and looks after its own.
“We aim to educate those involved in Racing, with all the unique challenges it entails, to be aware that support is available and that it is always better to come forward and speak to someone. We want to break down the stigma that is attached to mental health and tackle it head on. The signing of the Charter, and the leadership role which the BHA will take, will be the catalyst for this.”
Dawn Goodfellow, Chief Executive of Racing Welfare, said:
“Racing Welfare is committed to offering support to anyone working in, or retired from the racing industry regarding their mental health and wellbeing. Racing’s Support Line is a 24 hour telephone and online helpline and through this system we can offer telephone counselling, online cognitive behavioural therapy and facilitate access to in-person counselling too.
“The signing of the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation demonstrates our ongoing determination to ensure that everyone within racing’s workforce is able to access the support they require.”
Dr Jerry Hill, Chief Medical Adviser for the BHA, said:
“There are issues associated with horseracing which can put unique strains on our participants, for example the requirement for jockeys and work riders to monitor and control their weight at all times. This can have an emotional and mental impact, and for this reason it is imperative that we provide the right support to our workforce.
“A priority of mine is to address these issues at source by educating our participants on how to care better for themselves and to consider themselves as athletes, rather than simply as horsemen. Important work is under way on this front in the Jockey Nutrition and Welfare PhD. I fully endorse the signing of the Charter and any resultant work that can be done to provide further support to our industry’s mental health.”
Hayley Jarvis, Community Programmes Manager (Sport) at Mind said:
“We are delighted that the horseracing industry are coming together to take proactive measures to both raise awareness of mental health and to encourage the whole horseracing community to seek help and support. Unfortunately stigma still stops many people from seeking help with fewer men seeking help for their mental health than women. The more we can raise awareness and get the whole sporting community talking about mental health the better. We look forward to working with the British Horseracing Authority and partners to use the power of sport for social change.
Paul Struthers, Chief Executive of the Professional Jockeys Association, said:
“I’m delighted the BHA has joined us in signing the charter, and it is particularly timely to do so during Mental Health awareness week.
“We launched our helpline last year thanks to the funding received from Great British Racing and this helpline and follow-on face-to-face support has already proved invaluable to a number of our members.
“We are shortly to open up our helpline to retired jockeys, are making mental health and wellbeing a key element of the new jockey training strategy and the Jockeys Employment and Training Scheme are currently producing a number of educational videos for jockeys, in partnership with the PJA, one of which focuses on mental health.
“We will continue to promote the helpline and good mental health practices through our various communications channels and will continue to help remove the stigma over mental health issues.
“It is for this reason I’ve been open about my own problems with depression and, given the unique pressures jockeys face and the demands our sport places on them, why I was passionate about improving our provision for jockeys in this area.”
James Allen, Director of Policy, Governance and External Affairs at the Sport and Recreation Alliance said:
“It is great to have the BHA and Racing Welfare sign up to the Mental Health Charter for Sport and Recreation. As the Charter sets out, we want to ensure that every sporting environment is a positive place to talk about mental health and also promote how sport can be a solution. We look forward to supporting the BHA and Racing Welfare on the implementation plan which will help to further tackle real issues surrounding mental health.”