New Horse Racing Mental Health Initiative

The Kindred Group have made an investment in a new initiative that aims to make horse racing more accessible to people suffering from mental health issues. Unibet, one of Kindred’s brands, has backed the pilot scheme for #GoRacingGreen which will launch at Newbury Racecourse on 17 August.

All people attending events such as the Unibet Hungerford Stakes race will be encouraged to wear something green, such as a ribbon. This will signify that they are aware and supportive of people’s mental health issues, and that they are happy to be approached if someone needs to talk. The project also includes new training for the staff at Newbury so that they are more informed and better equipped to deal with issues such as social anxiety. Various alcohol-free quiet zones will also be set up to give people a place to go if they need some time out.

A bowl of green ribbons and a green ribbon tied around someone's arm.

People are encouraged to wear green ribbons to support those with mental health issues © Racing Post

The Kindred Group is hoping to ensure that sports sponsorships will have positive impacts on the community and location in which they operate. Ed Nicholson, Kindred’s Head of Racing Communications and Sponsorship, said: “The investment we are announcing today means #GoRacingGreen can continue to build on their fantastic work since they started the project earlier this year. Having attended the training session undertaken at Newbury earlier in the week, I saw at first-hand what a fantastic scheme this is. Our partnership with #GoRacingGreen shows a new model for sport sponsorship is possible. Kindred is leading the way in becoming a sponsor for a sport and its communities and we are looking forward to piloting the project at Newbury this Saturday.”

Earlier this year, Nottingham racetrack also trialled the #GoRacingGreen initiative. Matthews has expressed her delight at how well it went: “Bless them, they’ve gone above and beyond and implemented all of it. They’ve all been so welcoming. Hopefully, in the long term, it will benefit them with more people through their turnstiles.”

The Package

#GoRacingGreen has put together a package intended to create a safe space with the venues where these type of racing events take place. The package includes informative sessions on topics such as social anxiety and sensory awareness in order to ensure that staff are informed and able to handle situations relating to mental illness.

The package also includes a full assessment of the venue to identify areas where a safe space could be created. Debbie Williams has spoken numerous times on the importance of such spaces as somewhere for people to “go and hide for 10 minutes” if things become overwhelming. She explains what she has in mind for the safe space at Newbury: “It’ll be quite a simple room. Tables and chairs and two big television screens, so that anyone who doesn’t want to watch racing trackside, they can stay there and watch. It will always have a member of staff that I’ve trained in dementia and autism awareness and a general overview of anxiety disorders, who is always able to help if needed.”

Debbie Matthews

Debbie Matthews.

Debbie Matthews is the founder of the #GoRacingGreen initiative © The Guardian

Debbie Matthews initially came into the spotlight at the beginning of the year after Racing Post published a series of articles on her about her battle with mental health issues and visit to Ascot. After suffering from PTSD and severe social anxiety following the loss of her baby, Matthews developed an interest in horses and horseracing. Her main job is inaccessible and dementia tourism, and she began to apply this experience to her new hobby.

“What the racing industry and Racing Welfare are doing in terms of jockeys, trainers, staff with regards to mental health is fantastic, but they aren’t doing very much for people like me who would love to go to the races – it’s not always that accessible for us,” she says. “There are some really simple things that could make a day at the races much more comfortable. There are lots of people like me and I’d love racing to be more accessible for single people, widowed people, people with hidden disabilities, people with dementia.

Matthews insists that simply having a quiet place to go with some water, tea, or coffee, where people needing some downtime can go to sit quietly or talk to others suffering from anxiety could make a huge difference.

When talking about her work with the Kindred Group, Matthews is excited about the sponsorship: “This investment is a fantastic boost for the #GoRacingGreen project, and I am delighted to be working with Kindred through its Unibet brand. Working in partnership with them, we can now expand the programme and reach many more people with mental health problems across the racing community in the months ahead.”

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Debbie Matthews petting a horse.

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