Everyone is unique so will respond differently to life’s ups & downs and the stresses of modern life.
There are perception and reality differences too eg. what someone sees as a difficulty, another sees opportunity; stress for one, is pressure for another.
Even if we believe we’re not ‘the type’ to have poor mental health, illness or condition, the unexpected can happen.
Experiences, situations, circumstances, life events, loss, injury, illness, family / friends and many more can impact our mental health. Supporting and/or living with someone who's struggling with their mental health can be hard too.
Equestrianism has other factors too. eg. rider/horse injuries, lost form, owners moving/selling horses, young riders outgrowing ponies, work stress affects pleasure riding, and the inevitable challenges of running an equestrian business.
Paying attention to our mental health
What mental health means
Myths about mental health
Links between mental and physical health
Resilience and why it matters
Your mental health, and how you experience this, is individual to you.
Looking after and paying attention to your mental health, as you do your physical health, is key to your well-being and your ability to be the best you can be.
We often pay little or no attention to it until we experience change of some kind.
This is often due to external factors; people, situations, either a one-off or over a period of time. For example:
A top level professional has a run of bad luck
The results don’t reflect effort or achievement.
They start feeling disheartened, frustrated, lost, worry their owners may jump ship, make some unsound decisions - negatively affecting mental health.
OR they are resilient, remain focused, positive, undeterred, puts things in perspective, have constructive conversations with owners. – maintaining mental health.
An amateur rider gets stressed at work
They struggle to maintain their work/life boundary and stress creeps into their riding. Their enjoyment decreases. - negatively affecting mental health.
Another maintains their work/life boundary, gets the same, if not more, pleasure from riding when it becomes increasingly important for their well-being – positively boosting mental health.
A young rider is being bullied but keeps quiet
They eventually stop riding and give up what they love – negatively affecting mental health.
Although daunting, another chooses to speak up. Although it takes time, the matter gets resolved, and they continue to enjoy riding – recovering mental health.
A PROFESSIONAL RIDER LIVES WITH A LONG-TERM MENTAL HEALTH CONDITION
A certain situation can trigger a negative state of mind - negatively affecting mental health and recovery takes time.
Another works out situation specific strategies to manage, even avoid, those situations – maintaining, even boosting, mental health.
SOMEONE SUPPORTING ANOTHER STRUGGLING WITH THEIR MENTAL HEALTH
This can be an enormous strain on the person supporting. A strain on relationships too. The person might experience a range of difficult feelings of their own. It can be very exhausting and take its toll on their own mental health – negatively affecting mental health.
Thinking about the definition, it’s your emotional, psychological, physiological, and social well-being. It helps determine how you handle stress, relate to others, make choices and decisions.
Your ability to learn…. from your mistakes, experiences and cope with and manage change and uncertainty.
It affects how you communicate, your ability to form, and maintain, relationships with others and, therefore, impacts on those around you; your grooms, riders, owners, suppliers, and the horses.
So in effect, all those around you; family, friends, grooms, owners, work colleagues, and, your relationship with your horses and ponies.
Mental ill health, illness, conditions, disorders; depression, anxiety, stress, PTSD, bipolar, self-harm, suicide, anorexia, bulimia, or any of the hundreds of clinically diagnosable disorders.
The terms mental health and mental ill health have become interchangeable with many people consciously, sub-consciously or unconsciously thinking of mental health issues, problems or illnesses when mental health is mentioned.
We need to brake and break the connection – mental health is not mental ill health. Mental health is one thing, mental ill health is another.
Wrong. We all have physical health, we all have mental health, so how can it only affect a few people?! 1 in 4 people will experience some kind of mental health ‘issue’ or ‘problem’ in any given year.
Yet, this figure is somewhat misleading. It implies that there is a distinct group of people who are affected by mental illness/ill-health.
However, mental illness can hugely impact on the friends and family of the person affected. We all have mental health that needs care and attention.
This should then be: mental health affects us all.
Incorrect. The Mental Health Foundation cites 70% people make a full recovery. Recovery doesn’t always mean being free of all symptoms though.
Many people living with long term conditions are able to manage it and live full and satisfying lives.
Yes, they can. Full time work might be unrealistic for some people with severe and enduring conditions.
Appropriate workplace adjustments, and long-term medication can enable these people to work, whether part or full time.
For the vast majority of people with a mental health condition, work is not only possible but beneficial. Work can be central to staying well and can play an important role in ensuring people feel connected to other people, are valued by society and have a purpose.
If only it was that easy! A mental health condition is no different from a physical condition. It needs treatment just the same. ‘Snap out of it, pull yourself together, just get on with it’ – the list of clichés is endless.
People often say these however, when they don’t know what else to say, or lack mental health/ill-health knowledge or information.
Yet, such clichés can further hurt those that are suffering, coming across as dismissive and/or indicating they’re not being heard, listened to, believed.
Telling someone with a mental health condition to ‘snap out of it’ is like telling someone with a broken leg to ‘just walk it off!’.
Taking medication for a mental health condition is no more ‘running away from your problems’ than taking painkillers for migraines, insulin for diabetes or medication for irritable bowel.
For many people, prescribed medication is a necessary and even life-saving eg. for heart disease.
Far from ‘giving up’ and ‘running away’, medication represents a step towards dealing with the issue. For some conditions, medication often creates space for talking therapy to work.
Much like horses, if one is, or becomes, an ‘anxious’ horse, ulcers and other physical conditions are often present, and we see behaviour changes.
Long term box rest can impact a horse’s mental well-being, their temperament and needs careful management. Similarly, a symptom of grass sickness can be distress and depression.
Like horses, everyone is different; has their own unique set of indicators, known as our non-verbal communications, our ‘personal clues and cues’.
It’s important to note that poor mental health is not ‘just in the mind’.
These are some of the symptoms linked to mental health issues, not indicators of mental health issues on their own.
Each person will react differently, and may experience very different symptoms, and some may occur without our knowing.
Mental health conditions can affect physical health, with mental illness associated with a range of very real, physical symptoms such as:
It’s often far easier to deal with a physical injury, disability or illness. For example, you tear shoulder ligaments in a nasty fall.
This means you need to arrange full or part time cover depending on what you can/cannot do.
Being unable to work as usual, potentially worrying about how the yard will run without you, your horses’ work and how they might be with a different rider, could affect your well-being.
However, some physical conditions or long-term injuries can take a huge toll on our mental health, especially when we’re trying to continue working as usual, and managing the illness or injury.
Depending on your incapacity, feelings such as isolated, frustration, distressed, overwhelmed, helpless may creep in and, unaddressed, affect our mental health.
Medication for a physical illness can sometimes affect mental health and/or mood too. Careful medication management is needed.
That’s why it’s important when we have a physical health condition or injury, we take mental health into consideration when thinking about what’s the best course of action to take, including whether some extra support is needed, and accepting offers of support.
Resilience isn’t about endurance. It’s our capacity and ability to recover, refresh, to bounce-back from disappointments, difficulties, challenges, adversity and setbacks.
It’s a skill you can learn, develop and grow to manage everyday living. Simply put, it’s ‘R’ words, which speak for themselves:
Rest, recuperate, re-energise, resolve, restore, recover, refresh, renew, re-group, reinvigorate, repair, relax, respite, retreat, re-establish, revive, rejuvenate, recharge, revitalise, reframe, resolute.
It matters because there’s links between resilience and our ‘state’ [of mind] and our mood, attitude and our ability to manage/perform - personally and professionally. So, it:
Martin competed at a prestigious National championship. It’d been his and his owners’ dream. Preparations were great and expectations high. Things didn’t go to plan. He’s absolutely gutted and experiences a range of emotions.
Without resilience, he remains gutted, disappointed and frustrated. His mood, attitude and behaviour changes. He’s grumpy. People avoid him. Over time, family, owner, grooms and even rider-horse relationships suffer.
His horses lose confidence, movement and form. Some owners consider moving horses. Word soon spreads. His reputation and well-being deteriorates, business becomes challenging.
after his immediate reaction, Martin sits down with his trainer. He reaches out to a mentor too. He checks out Riders’ Minds for self-help ideas. He shares his disappointment with others, including owners.
They’re understanding and supportive. He reflects on his mistakes, what changes to make. He focuses on the present and looks forward with greater insight and knowledge. He bounces-back and makes plans.
Jessie rides for pleasure. She has a demanding day job.
The livery yard changes hands and services deteriorate. She’s been there some time. She tries to make things work as it’s convenient and riding is an important life-style choice for her.
Without resilience she gets stressed and up tight. Her pleasure turns into aggravation. Frustrations build, affecting everyone around her, including her horse who becomes irritable like her, creating an increasingly negative cycle.
Jessie assesses the situation. She decides what she needs, wants, would like to have happen for her and her horse. She browses Riders Minds, finds ideas for having difficult conversations. She has some with the new owners. It’s a challenging time, but she achieves the outcome she wants.
Jenny is a wife and mum. Her husband Pierre plays polo.He was diagnosed with depression and now takes long term medication.
Jenny used to get very frustrated, not knowing how to manage Pierre’s moods. She often experienced many different emotions herself, such as helplessness, angry, lost, guilty and alone.
Then Jenny read about depression. She understood more about it as an illness. She took time to learn Pierre’s triggers, got to know his ‘signs’, particularly when he missed taking his meds, and gently remind him to.
She also has ‘5 a-day’ things to help her stay well too so that she can fully support Pierre and their children.