I have done several blogs now which will have made my passion for horses obvious, so anything new in the equestrian world gets my attention. This latest news , reported by Horse and Hound magazine this week chimes in nicely with Mental Health Awareness Week (10-16 May) and unveils plans for a new resource to help riders access support with mental health issues.
Very sadly, a well known and talented event rider, Matthew Wright died on 15th February. The death of this widely liked rider came as a great shock, but Matthew had never made any secret of his mental health problems in the hope of helping others. With his wife, Victoria, he founded a charity called “Riders Minds” https://ridersminds.org/ which is a year old this week. The British Grooms Association and the Equestrian Employers Association act as consultants to the charity. The new service has been funded by donations to the charity.
What the new service does is add a live “chat and text” service to the Riders Minds helpline. The value of talking therapies is becoming more and more obvious, possibly even as an alternative to medication and this doesn’t always have to be done with professional counsellors. Even just being able to talk through issues and problems with a real person can be a great relief and help to a troubled person. They know they’re not alone. This is something that has been even more restricted by the pandemic.
Matthew’s wife Victoria said that he was particularly keen that this service should reach out to men, as he felt that men found it very hard to pick up a phone and talk to someone they didn’t even know. Sometimes men feel they have to maintain a “stiff upper lip” and that it is “not done” for men to admit, sometimes even to themselves, that they do have problems. They therefore suffer in silence. Thus, if the worst does happen and men feel they cannot go on, it comes as much more of a shock because no-one knew.
“We will work hard to remove the stigma of suicide. No bereaved person should ever have to read that word on a death certificate. It’s not suicide, it’s an illness. Riders Minds wants to ensure that we improve the mental wellbeing of all equestrian people and that with our help and the services provided, you can and will get better.”
The charity, like all charities, needs to continually fund raise to help more people. They have the 100 Miles challenge for individuals or teams and you can find out about this at https://ridersminds.org/news/26/100-miles-for-riders-minds.
They are also launching some branded clothing.
In addition, Racing Welfare, a charity supporting the workforce of British horseracing, is also supporting Mental Health Awareness Week. This year’s theme of “Nature” fits in well with horses nature and the charity has set up a digital campaign to highlight the benefits of the natural world to mental health, including a video. https://racingwelfare.co.uk/
Racing Welfare chief executive Dawn Goodfellow said Mental Health Awareness Week is a hugely important campaign for the charity and the racing industry and that they are proud to be involved.
But of course, it’s not just riders who need help and support. Mental illnesses are not discriminatory or fussy. Anyone at any time can suffer often sudden and unexpected mental health issues. Riders and horse owners are a good example of how on the face of it, someone may seem to have everything going for them and even they are bewildered as to how they could have become ill.
It doesn’t matter how or why it happened. The key point is to seek help. You wouldn’t (and couldn’t!) hide an injured leg and you don’t need to hide an injured mind.