Racing community urged to get behind mental health forum

A three hour session specifically tackling mental health in the racing industry will be held at Addington Raceway next month.

Called "Equiconnect" the seminar, at Addington Raceway on August 17, will canvas a number of issues relating to harness and thoroughbred racing, and more.

"We want to connect with trainers, drivers, cadets, coaches - in fact anyone involved in equestrian sports," says Equiconnect organiser and rural health mentor Craig "Wiggy" Wiggins (pictured above).

"There are high stresses and strains in racing, from the pressure to make a living and to win, to the amount of travel people have to do and then lifestyle choices, like eating poorly and ignoring warning signs whether it's their mental health or something else."

Wiggins previously tried to organise Equiconnect in 2021 but Covid made that impossible.

It's the equine version of his Agriconnect concept that has been very successful in recent years.

Wiggins and his Whatever With Wiggy Charitable Trust have been at the forefront of rural health advocacy, specially through his "Lean on A Gate, Talk To A Mate" initiative.

"The need out there is incredible," says Wiggins, "it is all about checking in with people, having conversations and reaching out."

On the night Wiggins will talk about social media and how to deal with comments and criticism.

"It's also about recognising how you are being affected by the things that are said on line and how to process them."

Other speakers will be former Maori All Black Slade McFarland who will address issues including suicide prevention, top equestrian competitor Emily Cammock, sports psychologist and mental skills expert Warrick Wood, and Salvation Army racetrack chaplain Andrew McKerrow.

"We also have a surprise speaker who I'd like to keep to myself at this stage ... but this person is right at the top of their game."

Refreshments will be provided, as will spot prizes courtesy of Hekeao Feed Company.

The night is being funded by the proceeds of a Matariki luncheon that was held earlier this month at the Papanui club in Christchurch.

Organised by Wendy Morrison, the luncheon featured a host of well known harness racing personalities including Blair Orange, Mark Purdon and Sam Ottley, and raised around $15,000 to help the work that Wiggins and McKerrow are doing in the mental health field.

Wiggins is hopeful the evening will be supported by a wide cross section of people right across the region.

"We could have 100 people there or if we get 200 that's fine too," says Wiggins.

What and when:

Equiconnect
Thursday August 17 at 7-10pm
Terror to Love Lounge, Addington Raceway

For further information contact Craig Wiggins - [email protected]

or through his whateverwithwiggy Facebook Page.

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