What makes a great leader? Empathy, positivity and the ability to listen are often associated with effective leadership and are qualities which Beck Edmunds, head person to Bryan Smart, possesses in abundance.
“It’s not only for those struggling with suicidal thoughts but also for the ones struggling financially or with housing or with feeling lonely – being able to get memberships for gyms – things I didn’t even know about. That’s why I think mental health training should be in every yard – knowing what’s out there and knowing even if you only say a few words that you have helped. It was a big lightbulb moment for me.”
Along with her talent for managing a string of horses, her role as confidante and mentor to the staff at Smart’s yard in North Yorkshire, scooped her the top prize of 2021 employee of the year at the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Awards.
Beck’s caring nature and drive to constantly improve her management skills was the motivation for signing up to Racing Welfare’s mental health awareness course. Beck talks with great passion about how the course has helped to support her staff struggling with mental health issues. She says:
“Staff in the yard have always come to me to ask for help and to talk about their problems, obviously I help them without a question and I found sometimes I was probably taking a little too much on myself and going to bed at night and rolling things over in my head and thinking ‘I’m not a professional, am I saying the right things, I’d hate to say the wrong things’ and I was almost damaging my own mental health trying to work through that in my own head.
“Over the years I have supported staff with suicidal thoughts and one in particular really stuck with me because I sat with him all night and tried talking to him. He didn’t want to talk which is fine and he seemed ok but then it got to Boxing Day and I was at home with my parents and he had taken an overdose and was asking for my help. I thought ‘oh my god I’m not even there, I’m in Cambridgeshire, not in North Yorkshire’ and I had to phone the boss and luckily he was ok.”
The mental health awareness course helped Beck to realise that she could refer to Racing Welfare’s services instead of trying to provide the support on her own:
“I realised I can’t help everybody and that we’re not there to wave a magic wand and fix everything. I was there to say ‘I’m sorry you are feeling like this but I am here for you and I am here to listen to you and I can put you in touch with people who can help you further.’ It’s not only for those struggling with suicidal thoughts but also for the ones struggling financially or with housing or with feeling lonely – being able to get memberships for gyms – things I didn’t even know about. That’s why I think mental health training should be in every yard – knowing what’s out there and knowing even if you only say a few words that you have helped. It was a big lightbulb moment for me.”
“One of the things they say on the course is about a bucket and the stresses of daily life sitting within the bucket and being able to empty it without it overflowing. I work one of my dogs and going out on the moors with him, that’s my thing and I use that analogy with the lads. I say ‘what is your thing that you can put the hole in the bucket and empty a bit of the stress every day or every week?’ It’s trying to find something that can help them in that way.
“I’m much happier now when people do come to me and talk to me. I don’t worry about saying the wrong thing. I talk, I listen and then I can say ‘right I can get you some help now’, and give them the numbers for Racing Welfare. I can tell sometimes if they are letting things slide and if they haven’t talked to anyone in a while and I push them again and one of them is in proper counselling now.”
The course has been invaluable to Beck through the pandemic when feelings of loneliness and isolation have been heightened:
“I’m not sure how I would have coped through COVID if I hadn’t done the course. It’s training that brain to be a little more positive. I buy chocolate bars for the lads – it’s those little things. We are very isolated up here a long way from the little towns so we have made sure that when we have done the Tesco order that everyone has everything they need. If they haven’t got something, you add it on to your order – it’s just looking for those things that can give off that positivity.
“If I hadn’t done that course I’m not sure I could have taken the burden on. Before I was thinking too much about it, I still think about them at night sometimes but in a much more positive way you’re like ‘yes they’re going to get the help they need’.”
It is this outstanding dedication to her staff and empowering her team to success which notched her the Godolphin Stud and Stable Staff Leadership Award as well as employee of the year:
“I was thrilled to win the award because that’s my job and I was just going about my job and got rewarded for it! I cannot tell you how many people have private messaged me to say I much I have helped them in the past. It was so emotional to hear.”
Beck believes that leaders need to get to know their team and their circumstances to be able to manage effectively:
“Staff aren’t really going to come and talk to you if you don’t know their names or you don’t know if their mum and dad are still alive, whether they are adopted, whether they have brothers and sisters. These little things you need to have found out about your staff for them to come to you or else they will keep it to themselves.
“I make time to go around and have a conversation with everyone. When they first arrive we do an induction I like to find out about them to see if they have been diagnosed with ADHD or anything like that as that affects their personality and you need to know how to communicate with them as an individual not just think they are difficult.
“I’m very interested in people. I like finding out about people’s families because if they’re having a bad day it might just be something from home. If you understand that little bit more about your team like those who have been adopted or if their mother has passed away and mother’s day rolls around you know why they are having a bad day.
“You can just go and check in with them and ask if they’re feeling all right today because you know it’s a tough day.”
If you are interested in signing up for Racing Welfare’s mental health awareness course or the mental health first aid course click here. If you or anyone you know is in a mental health crisis please call 999.
Racing Welfare’s 24 hour support line enables people to access support and
guidance through digital and telephone options.