I’ve written before about my wife Margy who has vast experience from a patient’s viewpoint. Much of the coverage about jockeys focuses on the ups and downs of losing, the rigours of travelling and diet and injuries. Margy’s psychiatrist, a go-ahead, committed and curious professional (he is one of the few in his business who advocates ECT when he considers it appropriate: many psychiatrists see it as a last resort), has strong theories linking physical causes to poor mental health. He believes one of the culprits to be inflammation, and he is not alone in that.
My medical knowledge is limited, but it seems obvious that injuries can cause inflammation in the body. Whether that can migrate to the brain I don’t know. But it might be worth some research on behalf of jockeys and others involved in contact sports. Perhaps the PJA could take a look at it?
Another interesting theory from Margy’s psychiatrist, and one that he seems pretty excited about, is a link between the health of the gastrointestinal tract and depression. His research suggests that people with good GI tract health rarely suffer mental health problems. Just another consideration, given the eating restrictions many jockeys face. Another research subject for the PJA?
We seem to be going the right way. Losing the stigma of admitting to mental health problems is a huge step. The more sufferers who are open about it, the less of a stigma it becomes. The less of a stigma, the more people will talk. And, crucially, it might just be that it’s not some invisible ‘mental’ health demon that can’t be nailed down. The physical issues mentioned above might prove to be the main cause: inflammation, gut health, the overall effect on the immune system. If something physical can be identified as a key contributor, we’ll be much closer to an effective solution.