Legendary jockey AP McCoy has been widely praised in the world of horse racing this morning for highlighting the issue of depression in jockeys.
The Antrim man spoke as part of a mini-doc about mental health obstacles faced by jockeys, Jockey Matters, which featured on Channel 4's Morning Line racing programme. McCoy heavily advocated the use of racing's 'mental health line', which allows jockeys to speak to trained professionals about issues they may face in their lives or careers on a confidential basis.
He told the film:
I think it's important to have a mental health line. It's a very difficult thing to approach a subject with someone that might not understand.
[If] you can have a private, confidential conversation with someone about what you're thinking then it can only be a good thing. And I think it's a good thing that when people do feel like that, they take the opportunity and use the helpline and speak to the people. Get advice from them. They've done all the studying of what you may be suffering from and what may make you better, so, that can only be a good thing.
I think jockeys find it hard to talk about mental health problems because, I think there's this stigma of them being really tough, and being mentally strong and not having any weaknesses - and being a 'real man's' sport. But at the end of the day, it always helps to talk to people. And when you're lucky enough to have someone confidential who can keep those things private, and if they do make you better, then you should do it.
You can watch the short documentary, which also features Irish jockey Mark Enright, below:
Jockeys and depression - "it's a good thing when people seek advice" pic.twitter.com/GKr3lAk2sm
— Channel 4 Racing (@Channel4Racing) October 29, 2016
McCoy earned a lot of praise for his transparent approach to the issue, which will likely encourage similar attitudes from the hundreds of younger jockeys and athletes who idolise him.
— Dáithí Ó Sé.. wash your hands (@daithi_ose) October 29, 2016
— Peter Hayes (@PeterAHayes_pah) October 29, 2016
— Orange Street Media (@OrangeStreetMM) October 29, 2016
— Angela Barnes (@Angelacb14) October 29, 2016
— Jeremy Sare (@JeremySare) October 29, 2016
After Mark Enright, who speaks the above video, came out and discussed his own battle with depression last year, an online study was undertaken to which 122 riders responded. Half of them indicated symptoms of depression. The rate among the Irish population is 24-26%, and in other sports is 26-28%.
In July, a 24-hour welfare line to help anyone involved in the racing industry, not just jockeys, was announced by the Irish Jockeys Trust and Horse Racing Ireland.