WELL done to Shane Rooney and Shane McCarthy for the campaign HAY, which commenced this week and got plenty of national coverage.
HAY stands for ‘How are Ya’, and the simplicity of the concept is admirable.
Behind it is a very important message, aimed primarily at the greater equine and equestrian community.
It is to raise awareness of good mental health, and to help reduce the stigma that still exists in places about the subject.
I don’t have to tell readers of The Irish Field about the efforts we are putting into this matter, and have done for years. Yet there is always a need to highlight the issues again and again, hence our fortnightly column.
One only has to see a statistic such as 35% of Irish jockeys and 41% of trainers meeting the threshold for depression to realise that there is an ongoing problem.
We have come some way since I addressed this issue at an awards evening, and met with general support but some scepticism, to a place where I am most usually spoken with about the subject, and the need to continue talking about it.
What makes the HAY campaign a little different is the fact that the chairs and CEOs of many different bodies have spoken publicly, some for the first time, about their support for the message.
Most of these are in the sport horse sector, and I hope that more bodies within racing and breeding do so also. Many of these have, it should be said, added their name to the list of organisations who are committed.
There are numbers published every fortnight in this paper where readers can go to seek help, and this week you will find them on the health page. The services are free, confidential and many are usually available on a 24-hour basis.
One of the initiatives with the HAY campaign is the concept of an Equestrian Mental Health Week.
This is to be applauded, but remember that issues which cause people stress, worry, anxiety and depression are a 52-week phenomenon, and it is important to keep pushing the message on a consistent basis.
Openness is key to getting the best possible results from campaigns such as HAY, and I was delighted to hear leading figures speak publicly about challenges they faced. It takes courage to speak up, but it is also important to know that there are people listening.
We are a family of people with common interests, and we must be there for each other.