Behind the barriers

24 June 2022 Written by Patrick Bartley

Charity Behind The Barriers is dedicated to supporting racing industry participants and their immediate family members suffering from mental health issues.

Some time ago, Jason Petch became aware that the horse racing industry was not that much different from the Australian community when it comes to mental health.

Petch has always maintained when he was horse training that there was a need to help people struggling with conditions such as depression.

He and his group named Behind The Barriers have always remained steadfast in the anthem that they point their clients to when they first seek help:

“Stop hating yourself for everything you aren’t and start loving yourself for everything you already are.”

Petch and his organisation have zeroed in specifically to the thoroughbred racing and breeding industry throughout Australia.

“I know the pressures that people in our industry can be under and sometimes there’s no one there to reach out to and that’s when they start struggling,” Petch said.

“We have a 24/7 hotline (1300GETHELP) that is accessible to all industry participants who feel the need to reach out for mental health issues.”

“Callers speak to a provisional psychologist similar to Beyond Blue. However, we take it one step further and immediately triage callers to a clinical psychologist.

“We are here for them, and Behind The Barriers pays for the first three sessions with the psychologist.

“This is done without the need to acquire a mental health care plan from a general practitioner.”

Petch said that Behind The Barriers was launched in 2018 after his group saw a huge need from participants in all sections of the industry.

He also stressed that Behind The Barriers was providing free, immediate and confidential support to racing industry participants and immediate family members suffering mental health issues.

Petch also said that identifying the problem in the early stages is vitally important, as the earlier the problem is tackled, the quicker the solution can be sought.

“To date we have facilitated more than 600 individual sessions across both racing and breeding.”

“Behind The Barriers has not received financial help from the racing or breeding industry except for individual trainers and studs who have fundraised or donated.

“Punters have also been very generous as they appreciate the people who actually ‘put the show on’,” he said.

Beyond The Barriers will hold a ‘Fighting for Mental Health Boxing Challenge’ staged on May 14 at Caulfield Racecourse.

“Trainers, jockeys and breeders are all training up to compete in the event. Sadly Covid has stopped the event twice now, but we look forward to holding the event in May this year, finally,” he said.

Petch said that the need for mental health help in the racing industry and the breeding industry has been long overdue.

“When we started this four years ago we saw that our industry was no different to other industries. We experience pressure probably in a lot different ways than nine to five workers, but we knew that we had to specialise and get these people some help.

“We have been so gratified with our results. Probably having someone there to support them is the all-important catchcry,” he said.

Covid-19 caused mental health numbers in the community to skyrocket.

Fortunately, Petch and outfits like Behind The Barriers were vitally aware that the racing community was not exempt from the mental pain of these events. 

“We’re here ready to help with our doors open all the time, so anyone with the slightest concern can come straight in,” he said.

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(Vince Caligiuri/Getty Images)