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Racing Welfare’s mental health research project reaches penultimate stage

Industry wide mental health research, commissioned by Racing Welfare in partnership with Liverpool John Moores University, has now reached its final phase of data collection.  The full report of findings and recommendations will be published by Racing Welfare in May 2019.

The research, which is being undertaken by Will McConn of Liverpool John Moores University (LJMU), has been part funded by a grant from The Racing Foundation. Having commenced in February of 2018, the study focuses on the relationship between an individual’s mental health and industrial practices in horseracing.  There search explores how these practices potentially enhance health and wellbeing for the benefit of all those working in racing.  The aim is to gain an overall understanding of mental wellbeing within the industry, looking at a full spectrum of issues from low mood and stress, clinically diagnosed conditions, right through to how good mental health is experienced.

Racing Welfare’s Director of Welfare, Simone Sear, said “Racing Welfare is committed to supporting the mental wellbeing of everyone working in or retired from the horseracing industry.  Positive mental health enables people to reach their full potential, work productively, cope with life’s stressors and contribute to their communities.  This ground-breaking research will enable Racing Welfare, and the wider horseracing industry, to make evidence based decisions in order to develop bespoke mental health support services that are fully accessible to everyone in racing.”

The research has been structured across four phases, two of which have been completed so far. The first phase revolved around reviewing the current scientific knowledge and research that already exists.  From there, Will and the team at LJMU developed focus groups and interviews tailored specifically to examine how working life in racing impacts a person’s mental health. Between July and November, 130 individuals were consulted and participated through interviews and focus groups.  Those taking part included trainers, stable staff, jockeys, stud workers, racing secretaries, and representatives from various industry bodies.  In order to achieve as wide a geographical reach as possible, data collection took place around the main UK horse racing centres including Dorset, Somerset, Lambourn, Epsom, Newmarket, Malton, Middleham and the Scottish Borders.

The third phase of their search focuses on gaining a wider understanding of the topics raised within the interviews and focus groups.  To achieve this, a survey has been designed to allow anyone working in the horseracing industry to take part. The survey looks at areas around employment, working conditions, health service provision and professional development.  It will go live on the 14th of January and can be accessed and completed online; the link will be made available on Racing Welfare’s website and social channels.  The survey is completely confidential and will remain open for five weeks until the 22ndFebruary.  It will only take around 15 minutes to complete and it is hoped that as many people within horseracing fill it out as possible.

The final report, including findings and recommendations, will be available to the public from Monday the 13th of May, coinciding with the start of Mental Health Awareness Week 2019.

LMJU postgraduate researcher, Will McConn, said In asking people to discuss their mental health we were aware from the outset that it can be a sensitive topic. We therefore made no assumptions at the start on how many would engage in discussing such health. The response though was fantastic and continues to be so. From speaking to those in racing there is a strong understanding that life can be quite tough sometimes, in lots of different ways. However, they have also spoken about a thriving mental health based around passion, partnership, and inclusion. The aim of the upcoming survey then will focus, of course, on what extra is needed, but will also help select and increase many of the good practices and ideas that are already within the industry. I would ask then for as many people as possible to complete the survey, irrespective of where you feel your health is at, to help maximise the enjoyment that the racing workforce obtains from being involved in their sport.”