The Race Track Chaplaincy of America (RTCA) is committed to the well-being of all individuals within horseracing. RTCA is driven by its core mission to minister to the spiritual, physical, social, educational, and emotional needs of the racing community.
In April, a Jockey Mental Health survey was sent to jockeys nationwide by the Jockeys’ Guild and the results were presented to a group at Keeneland in late May. Since that presentation, there have been discussions among industry leaders on the subject of mental health, in particular, how to identify and prevent potential suicide. In alignment with other prominent industry associations, the RTCA recognizes the importance of mental health concerns with the jockey colony and throughout the horseracing family.
RTCA Chaplains are uniquely positioned to actively engage with jockeys, trainers, and other racing personnel on a daily basis, providing guidance and support.
Dan Waits, the Executive Director of RTCA, emphasizes the significance of the Chaplains’ regular presence at racetracks, stating, “For over five decades, the Chaplain at the racetrack, training facility or farm community has been a trusted resource for individuals who maybe experiencing mental health challenges to turn to and get the help they need. Through ongoing training, it is our aim to equip each Chaplain to provide assistance to those in need and guide them towards the appropriate help.”
RTCA Chaplains have received training on these subjects at their National Conference and in their educational backgrounds. However, to bolster this current endeavor, dedicated funding has been allocated to enable each RTCA Chaplain and all local support staff members to pursue immediate accreditation through QPR Gatekeeper Training, a national program that equips individuals with the necessary skills to identify, understand, and respond to signs of potential suicide.
By participating in this program, the Chaplains will be better prepared to offer support and intervention when confronted with these issues. Janet VanBebber, a valued RTCA Board Member, passionately advocates for mental health support and expresses her satisfaction with RTCA’s proactive steps.
She shares a personal connection to the cause, saying, “Having lost my husband to suicide over 20 years ago and subsequently witnessing the loss of more friends from the track, I deeply understand the importance of equipping those on the backside and the frontside to recognize silent suffering, identify warning signs, and facilitate meaningful support. Such tragedies have a profound impact on individuals and families. My prayer is that by educating our Chaplains, we provide them with the necessary tools to offer support and guidance, ultimately saving lives.”
RTCA remains steadfast in its commitment to promoting mental health awareness and fostering a compassionate environment within the racing community. Through the QPR accreditation of its Chaplains and local staff members, the RTCA aims to strengthen their ability to recognize and respond to mental health challenges effectively, and RTCA will continue to provide on-going training for increased responsiveness in the days ahead.