Background: The mental health of elite athletes has gathered increasing attention in recent years. Despite this, limited research exists regarding the mental health of professional jockeys. Thus, the primary aim of this study was to investigate the mental health and help-seeking attitudes of professional jockeys in Ireland. Methods: Study One: Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were utilised to explore stressors experienced by jockeys. Study Two: An online questionnaire was completed by 84 jockeys to explore the prevalence of common mental disorders (psychological distress, depression, generalised anxiety, adverse alcohol use) and their associations with specific risk-factors (burnout, career satisfaction, social support, contemplating retirement). Study Three: Qualitative, semi-structured interviews were conducted to examine jockeys barriers and facilitators towards help-seeking. Study Four: An online questionnaire examined the relationships between mental health literacy and stigma on attitudes towards help-seeking. The study also sought to quantitatively assess the key barriers to help-seeking for jockeys. Results: Study One revealed jockeys experienced a wide variety of stressors that were characterised into four general dimensions including: competition-based stressors; racing industry stressors; interpersonal stressors; and career-based stressors. In Study Two, nearly 80% of all professional jockeys who took part in the study met the criteria for at least one mental health disorder, indicating probable or potential mental ill-health. Specifically, 61% for adverse alcohol use, 35% for depression, 27% for generalised anxiety, and 19% for psychological distress. Burnout, career satisfaction, and contemplating retirement were all significantly associated with generalised anxiety and psychological distress. In Study Three, a number of barriers (negative perceptions of others; cultural norms; low mental health literacy) and facilitators (education; social support; media campaigns) to help-seeking were identified. In Study Four, findings indicated that MHL, self-stigma of seeking psychological help and public stigma significantly predicted attitudes towards help-seeking over current levels of psychological distress and previous help-seeking history. The association between MHL on attitudes towards help-seeking was partially mediated by self-stigma. The most prominent barriers to help-seeking for CMDs reported by jockeys was the fear of owners/trainers finding out they were seeking help, limited time to engage with services, and difficulty understanding when support from a mental health professional is required. Conclusion: Overall, this thesis contributes unique findings to the understanding of jockey mental health, whist also extending knowledge of the broader athlete mental health literature. The thesis highlights the challenging nature of a career as a jockey which may be linked to adverse mental health outcomes such as a prevalence of common mental disorders. Findings also indicated a number of barriers to help-seeking which may promote a reluctance to seek help, with self-stigma and mental health literacy appearing important constructs to address in future research and psychoeducational programmes.
|Publication status||Unpublished - 2021|
- Mental health, Horse racing