Raising Mental Health Awareness Beyond Formula 1

In the third part of this series and in recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week, ATRL’s Ayesha Ninan takes a closer look at the UK charity, Mind, and their work in partnership with Formula 1 and beyond.

Ayesha Anna Ninan

May 13, 2024

As the subject of mental health and its challenges becomes more normalised in the world of Formula 1, teams continue to work to raise awareness as drivers become more open about their own experiences. Partnerships with charities like Mind help extend these conversations beyond the track. It also gives fans the opportunity to contribute to this growing awareness through various forms of participation.

 

The World Health Organisation defines mental health as “a state of mental well-being that enables people to cope with the stresses of life, realize their abilities, learn well and work well, and contribute to their community.” 

 

Andrew Berrie, Head of Corporate Partnerships at Mind, states, “We all have mental health, just as we all have physical health, and it’s vital that we take steps to look after both. Every year, one in four of us will experience a mental health problem.”

Mr Berrie also underscores the fact that communicating about our concerns and experiences has benefits because, he says, “This can help us feel less alone, more able to cope, and encouraged to seek support if we need to. As we normalise these conversations it also helps to reduce [the] stigma that so often surrounds mental health.”

Drivers and McLaren team members make public statements in support of Mental Health Awareness Week 2023 (photo via LinkedIn)

Mind was established in 1946 in the UK as the National Association for Mental Health. Mind’s roots lie in the mental hygiene movement which worked to change perceptions of what was considered to be ‘mental deficiency’ and reposition disabled individuals as self-sufficient and responsible citizens. Mental hygiene is defined as the “science of maintaining mental health and preventing disorders to help people function at their full mental potential. It includes all measures taken to promote and preserve mental health: rehabilitation of the mentally disturbed, prevention of mental illness, and aid in coping in a stressful world.”

 

Mr Berrie says, “In 1971, NAMH launched its first major public information and fundraising campaign: the MIND campaign. The campaign was so successful that, the following year, NAMH rebranded itself as MIND.” The campaign was predicated on a belief that developing human relationships and focusing on emotional adjustment was more effective in treating mental health concerns than institutionalisation under rigid authority. Mind’s efforts focused on building a community-based service to serve alongside regular health and welfare resources. 

 

While Mind continues to do important work in raising awareness, it has not escaped criticism. There have been allegations of bullying at a local Mind in 2018-19, with an ex-employee being awarded compensation. Last year, The Guardian also reported that Mind was among a number of UK charities that shared sensitive user data with Facebook for targeted ads. A Mind spokesperson stated that the charity had paused the use of the tracking tool, Meta Pixel, on their website. 

Mind is the Mercedes AMG Petronas F1 team’s official charity partner for 2024 (Photo via www.mercedesamgf1.com)

After Mind ran a successful partnership with McLaren Racing from 2020 to 2022, it seemed logical for the charity to continue its association with Formula 1. Berrie tells us, “In summer 2023, Mind were chosen in a staff vote to become Mercedes’ next charity partner, from July 2023 to December 2024.”

 

With the Mercedes Formula 1 headquarters located in the UK, their partnership with Mind positions the charity to reach a broader audience within its country. As with any country, the UK has its unique challenges when tackling the health of its citizens through the National Health Service (NHS). As Mr Berrie points out, “1.9 million people are waiting for NHS mental health services, and since 2017 the number of young people struggling with their mental health has nearly doubled.”

 

Mind’s partnership with Mercedes kicked off with a football charity match in September last year between members of the Mercedes and Aston Martin F1 teams. Mr Berrie explains, “tickets were sold to raise money and a football skills session was run for children.”

 

In the current season of Formula 1, fans can expect to see Mercedes and Mind partner in new activities. Mr Berrie says, “Mercedes is aware of its prominence as an F1 team and the responsibility and the positive impact that can be made with this. That’s why partnering with them is a fantastic opportunity for Mind to raise funds and awareness locally, nationally, and internationally.” In planning for the season, he states, “As we move through the partnership, we’ve lots of exciting moments coming up, including regular Go-Karting fundraisers and the charity football matches at Brackley Town F.C.” He adds, “There will be a much-anticipated rematch between Mercedes and Aston Martin in July 2024.”

The Mercedes and Aston Martin F1 teams played a charity match to support Mind (photo via www.mercedesamgf1.com)

Last year, Mind focused on the impact of the cost of living crisis during Mental Health Awareness week. This year, Mr Berrie says, “we’re launching #NoMindLeftBehind. We’re calling on the public to help us to raise awareness and vital funds for a future where everyone can get quality mental health care when they need it. “ He elaborates, “The campaign aims to be a golden thread for our work throughout the year and will be developed for our World Mental Health Day in October. #NoMindLeftBehind campaign also speaks to our strategic purpose – that we won’t give up until everyone experiencing a mental health problem gets support and respect.”

 

During this year’s Mental Health Awareness Week, Mr Berrie reminds us, “On our own, we can’t reach everyone. That’s why we’re calling on Formula 1 fans to help us raise vital funds so that we can be there for even more people who need us.” Public engagement is a crucial part of any charity’s work. Between 2022 and 2023, 40,000 people helped raise £10.9 million for Mind through events like marathons and treks. 

According to Mind’s latest annual report, 17,100 also people signed up for Mind’s online community, Side to Side. UK-based residents can reach Mind via helplines or local chapters. Mr Berrie also notes, “Through the Mercedes team’s social media accounts, there will also be plenty of information and resources to engage with.”

 

 As Mercedes driver, Lewis Hamilton, wrote in an Instagram story in 2022, “Hard some days to stay positive. I have struggled mentally and emotionally for a long time, to keep going is a [constant] effort but we have to keep fighting, we have so much to do and to achieve.” Yet, he goes on to remind his readers that it’s okay to feel this way. 

Lewis Hamilton made a public statement about his mental health on Instagram (photo via @LweisHamilton on X)

It can be hard to know how to help someone who is struggling. Mr Berrie acknowledges, ““For many people, starting a conversation about mental health can feel uncomfortable but remember, it could be life changing” and he shares suggestions on how to begin such a conversation. 

  • Ask questions and listen. This can give the person space to express how they’re feeling and what they’re going through, and it will help you to understand their experience better. Try to ask questions that are open and not leading or judgmental, like “how does that affect you?” or “what does it feel like?”.
  • Think about the time and place. Sometimes it’s easier to talk side by side rather than face to face e.g. when you’re walking, cooking or stuck in traffic.
  • Help them see they’re not alone. If you know someone else who has struggled with their mental health, talking anonymously about their experiences might be a good way of starting a dialogue, or you could discuss celebrities who are talking about their mental health in the media.
  • Don’t try and fix it. Sometimes, unless they’ve asked for advice directly, simply listening can be really powerful.
  • Treat them the same. Do the things you’d normally do. Remind them at the end of a conversation that if they want to talk again, you’ll be there to listen.
  • Be patient and give them the space they need. No matter how hard you try, some people might not be ready to talk about what they’re going through. The fact that you’ve tried to talk to them or listened to what they have to say, may make it easier for them to open up another time.
  • Take care of yourself – your mental health is important too and looking after someone else could put a strain on your wellbeing.”

 

To support Mind during Mental Health Awareness Week visit mind.org.uk/get-involved/mental-health-awareness-week/

If you or someone you know is struggling with their mental health, Mind is here for you:

  • We have a confidential Infoline, available on 0300 123 3393 (Monday to Friday, 9am-6pm). Calls charged at local rates, or email info@mind.org.uk.
  • Our welfare benefits line supports anyone with mental health problems who is navigating the benefits and welfare system 0300 222 5782
  • Legal line: 0300 466 6463
  • Side by Side is a safe, moderated online peer support community where people aged 18+ with mental health problems can share their story, connect with others and access Mind’s wider information.

 

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Ayesha Anna Ninan is an editor and script development consultant based in Mumbai. She developed an interest in Formula 1 through Netflix’s Drive to Survive and has become an avid follower of the sport. In her spare time, she teaches film editing, runs a nonfiction book review blog and now writes about Formula 1. She holds a masters in film production from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts Asia.

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