This week’s Palace House blog comes from Simon Bailey, National Chaplain to Horse Racing UK, who gives us an insight into his role, as we enter Mental Health Awareness Week (Monday 13 to Sunday 19 May).
This coming week is Mental Health Awareness Week. During the week Racing Welfare Officers, as well as myself, will be visiting racecourses throughout the UK to talk to staff about mental ill health. I will be at Bangor on Dee towards the end of the awareness week. It will be good to travel a bit further afield and meet staff in the racing industry I’ve never met before. In my four years plus as National Chaplain to Horse Racing in the UK it is pleasing that the industry is taking mental ill health so seriously. It is now ok not to be ok. It has become good to talk. The more we dig deeper into this the more common it is to experience certain kinds of mental ill health. It can happen to any of us at any time.
Over the last month I’ve co-presented the 2-day Mental Health First Aid Course through an initiative by Racing Welfare to help racing’s workforce get better at spotting the signs that can appear amongst our colleagues in the workplace. A cross section of staff from the industry have signed up for the first two courses. From a training yard to the BHA, Tattersalls to veterinary practices, they are all placing big importance on staff wellbeing. It’s a new venture that we’ve so far only tried in Newmarket, but the feedback has been so encouraging that more courses are being planned in other parts of the country. Not only have staff been trained on what signs to look for they have also put this training into action and have already helped their colleagues in a practical way. This not only helps people who need it before they hit rock bottom, but it will prevent a loss of earnings from days off through ill health.
Sport is best when the people who make it happen are at their best. It is no use being in peak physical fitness if mentally things aren’t great. A huge part of the work I do as Chaplain to Horse Racing in the UK involves getting the workforce to believe in themselves, even when the odds seem stacked against them. Whether they are affected by work issues, relationship problems or addictions, at times all we need is someone we can trust to walk through the problem with us.
I’m finishing this blog tonight whilst watching the final minutes of the Liverpool v Barcelona match in the Champions League. Whatever your sport is, we can’t get away from tonight’s lesson of it’s never over till it’s over. In life, as well as in sport, there will be times when things may seem like a lost cause. But having the belief to turn things around alongside people who are fighting with you is when the chink of hope shows its head. Better mental health and indeed health in general are worth fighting for. Get in touch with someone who can help. 3-0 down can soon become 4-3 up with a bit of effort. Life and sport are better when you’re winning. Let us help more of our friends to win the battles they are facing.
Blog by guest blogger Simon Bailey, National Chaplain to Horse Racing UK