GoRacingGreen: Nottingham offers new room for racegoers in mental health link-up
Nottingham on Wednesday became the first course in Britain to officially link up with the #GoRacingGreen campaign to improve the raceday experience for people with mental health problems.
The Jockey Club Racecourses-owned venue has supported the initiative, the brainchild of Debbie Matthews, who has blogged on mental health issues such as anxiety and social phobias, by offering a #GoRacingGreen room on the majority of its racedays.
A simple space providing tables, chairs and screens to view the racing, the room offers an area of respite for any racegoers seeking a moment of quiet. Additionally, a #GoRacingGreen page on the racecourse's website includes a sensory guide and access statement for those living with invisible illnesses who may be contemplating a day at the races.
Matthews, who suffers from social anxiety and at one point was unable to be left alone, said: "A room like this is a deciding factor in whether someone will go racing.
"People like myself, who have social anxieties, and thousands of people who have contacted me with a range of disorders and invisible illnesses, would normally avoid going racing at all costs, but a room like this and the information on the website can be pivotal in attracting people.
"People can come racing and stay in here for the duration of the day or pop in at any point. It's vital to have the comfort of knowing there is somewhere to go, and the staff here are trained to understand how those suffering from mental illnesses may be feeling."
Black non-slip mats can be seen as a hole in the floor for people living with dementia and have been replaced with a green astroturf surface, while mirrors in the room – that can provide a distressing perspective for those suffering from mental illness – have been painted over, while contrasting paint colours have been implemented in the disabled toilets.
Matthews, who performed a presentation on #GoRacingGreen to staff at the track last month, said: "Nottingham are the first course to roll with our ideas and have been great. They've gone above and beyond and I really hope this is an example that other tracks will look at and believe is a good facility to have.
"I don't drink or bet and it's all about the horse when going racing. The love of the horse is special and hopefully this room will help bring more people through the turnstiles and enable them to see the horses in the flesh, without having to hide at home and watch them on the television."
Richard Pilkington, chairman at the track, said: "This is an important day for us all at Nottingham. Debbie took the plunge and went racing on her own in January and it's great she now wants to encourage others to do the same.
"Racing should be for everyone and we're pleased to support this initiative by making a space available for anyone who wants to come racing but has an invisible condition."
Matthews made the trip to Sandown last Saturday to see her main racing idol Altior win the Celebration Chase, and kept to tradition by only watching the chaser in action after the final fence.
Matthews, 41, said: "I cried again – I was an emotional wreck. I never watch the race until he's jumped the last and I know he's okay, but he's just incredible.
"It's a fantastic achievement and my heart went out to his groom Robin Land and Nicky Henderson, who sadly lost Josses Hill earlier on the day, as they've been really kind to me since this journey began."
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